Changes in Coral Skeleton Growth Recorded by Density Band Stratigraphy, Crystalline Structure, and Hiatuses

Kyle W. Fouke, Jeffrey M. Trop, Mayandi Sivaguru

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Next-generation high resolution brightfield microscopy, x-radiography, and microcomputed tomography (microCT) analyses indicate that coral skeleton high density band (HDB) and low density band (LDB) stratigraphic sequences record dynamic changes in coral growth history. HDB-LDB sequences were studied within three small heads of Orbicella annularis, an ecological keystone species in the Caribbean Sea, collected from the leeward fringing reefs on Curaçao. Results indicate that HDB layers are formed by the thickening of exothecal and endothecal dissepiments, costae, and theca located at the margin and external to individual skeletal cups (corallites). Conversely, septa and columellas located inside individual corallites do not change in thickness. HDB-LDB stratigraphic sequences were laterally traced from the center to the margins of individual coral heads, demonstrating that shifts took place in the trajectory of coral skeleton growth. Normal HDB layers in the center of individual coral heads are formed at the same time (age-equivalent) as surfaces of erosion and no skeleton growth (hiatuses) on the margins of the heads. These hiatus surfaces within HDB-LDB stratal geometries indicate that multiple marine ecological and environmental processes affect the orientation, size, shape, and geometry of coral skeletons during coral growth history. The presence of these hiatus surfaces in other large coral heads would strongly impact sclerochronology and the interpretation of multiple environmental factors including sea surface temperature (SST).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number725122
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
StatePublished - Dec 23 2021


  • Orbicella annularis
  • coral ecology
  • coral skeleton growth
  • crystalline structure
  • density bands
  • hiatuses
  • stratigraphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering


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