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Staghorn tempestites in the Florida Keys

January 1, 2003

Thirty-one samples of transported Holocene Acropora cervicornis "sticks" sampled from carbonate sand tempestite accumulations at 19 sites along a 180-km-long stretch of the Florida reef tract were dated using the radiocarbon (14C) method. The "modern fossils" collected from just a few centimeters below the surface ranged in age from 0.5 to 6.4 ka. The majority lived between 3.5 and 5.5 ka. The time of transport and deposition is not known. There were no A. cervicornis samples centered around 4.5 ka. Acropora cervicornis is living on many Florida reefs, but the youngest tempestite sample was 500 years old. Two 500-year-long gaps in dated staghorn suggest that the documented decline in living A. cervicornis over the past 25 years may not be without precedent.