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Tertiary: the emergence of modern reef ecosystems


Following the major mass extinctions at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, reef ecosystems slowly recovered and scleractinian corals appeared progressively as the most efficient framework producers of Cenozoic times. This occurred, however, in several steps involving successively speciation and diversification of assemblages, acquisition of reef-building capacities, and expansion of reef ecosystems. Although buildups were represented mainly by reef mounds and mud mounds from Danian to early Eocene times, typical framework reefs dominated by coral assemblages became the most common type of bioconstruction from the middle Eocene, Buildups remained relatively scarce during the early Tertiary, however, and acquired a widespread development from the late Oligocene onwards, with an acme of reef expansion during the early to middle Miocene. Distribution, abundance, and biotic composition of buildups are driven by the interplay of many abiotic and biotic factors acting at various temporal and spatial scales. Interaction of climate and plate tectonics in controlling oceanic circulation and potential marine seaways permitting faunal exchanges and dispersion led to the splitting of the cosmopolitan Tethyan reef province of the Late Cretaceous–early Tertiary into the three major reef provinces of the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Indo-Pacific during Miocene times. The latitudinal contraction of the tropical–subtropical belt by taking the Mediterranean region out of the reef belt finally left, at the end of the Miocene, the two main reef Provinces existing today, the Caribbean and the Indo-Pacific. The very gradual acquisition of modern reef characteristics during the Tertiary contrasts with rather sudden biota turnovers, in particular at the Eocene–Oligocene and at the Oligocene–Miocene boundaries. The primary characteristics of Tertiary buildups as recorded in the PaleoReef database clearly appear to exert major control upon their reservoir potential.
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mnhn-00491189 , version 1 (10-06-2010)



Christine Perrin. Tertiary: the emergence of modern reef ecosystems. Flügel E., Kiessling W. & Golonka J. Phanerozoic reef patterns, 72, SEPM, pp.587-618, 2002, SEPM Special Publication n°72, ⟨10.2110/pec.02.72.0587⟩. ⟨mnhn-00491189⟩
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