Proliferation and demise of deep-sea corals in the Mediterranean during the Younger Dryas

Journal article
(Original article)

Publication Details

Author(s): McCulloch M, Taviani M, Montagna P, López Correa M, Remia A, Mortimer G
Journal: Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Publisher: Elsevier
Publication year: 2010
Volume: 198
Journal issue: 1-2
Pages range: 143-152
ISSN: 0012-821X
Language: English


Uranium-series and radiocarbon ages are reported for deep-sea corals Madrepora oculata, Desmophyllum dianthus, Lophelia pertusa and Caryophyllia smithii from the Mediterranean Sea. U-series dating indicates that deep-sea corals have persisted in the Mediterranean for over 480,000years, especially during cool interstadial periods. The most prolific period of growth however appears to have occurred within the Younger Dryas (YD) period from 12,900 to 11,700years BP followed by a short (~330years) phase of post-YD coral growth from 11,230 to 10,900years BP. This indicates that deep-sea corals were prolific in the Mediterranean not only during the return to the more glacial-like conditions of the YD, but also following the rapid deglaciation and transition to warmer conditions that followed the end of the YD. Surprisingly, there is a paucity Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) coral ages, implying they were largely absent during this period when cold-water conditions were more prevalent. Radiocarbon ages show that the intermediate depth waters of the Mediterranean generally had {increment}14C compositions similar to surface waters, indicating that these waters were extremely well ventilated. The only exception is a narrow period in the YD (12,500±100years BP) when several samples of Lophelia pertusa from the Ionian Sea had {increment}14C values falling significantly below the marine curve. Using a refined approach, isolation ages (τisol) of 300years to 500years are estimated for these intermediate (800-1000m) depth waters relative to surface marine waters, indicating a reduction or absence of deep-water formation in the Ionian and adjacent Adriatic Seas during the YD. Contrary to previous findings, we find no evidence for widespread intrusion of low {increment}14C Atlantic waters into the Mediterranean. Prolific growth of deep-sea corals in the Mediterranean ended abruptly at ~10,900years BP, with many of the coral-bearing mounds on the continental slopes being draped in a thin veneer of mud. Their demise is attributed to a number of factors, including the direct loss of habitat due to high sedimentation that accompanied glacial meltwater pulses, together with rising temperatures that would have finally pervaded the deeper water of the Mediterranean following the onset of Holocene warming. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

FAU Authors / FAU Editors

López Correa, Matthias
Lehrstuhl für Paläoumwelt

How to cite

McCulloch, M., Taviani, M., Montagna, P., López Correa, M., Remia, A., & Mortimer, G. (2010). Proliferation and demise of deep-sea corals in the Mediterranean during the Younger Dryas. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 198(1-2), 143-152.

McCulloch, Malcolm, et al. "Proliferation and demise of deep-sea corals in the Mediterranean during the Younger Dryas." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 198.1-2 (2010): 143-152.


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