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The shelf of Cozumel, Mexico: Topography and organisms

  • Gerd Muckelbauer


The Caribbean Island of Cozumel lies 18 km off the north-eastern coast of the Mexican Peninsula of Yucatan. A relatively narrow shelf is developed on both sides of the roughly NS striking island, whereby terraces and marked steps are evident. On the western shelf 3 terraces can be found at 5 m, 10 m and 20 m below sea level. The shelf edge lies at approximately 20 m. On the eastern side 5 distinct terraces are developed (3 m, 10 m, 20 m, 30 m and 50 m) and the shelf edge lies about 50 m deep. These terraces are interpreted as abrasion platforms of the rising sea level in the Holocene. In the W the insular slope drops almost vertically to a depth of about 400 m. In the E it drops even further, with interruptions to over 1000 m. The northern shelf area remains flat (20–30 m) and ends at the Banco Arrowsmith, about 50 km NNE of Cozumel.

Coral reefs have developed at the edges of the steps on the W’shelf, and especially at the shelf edge. The reefs generally do not penetrate the water surface. number of species (Fig. 26a).

Scleractinians: The Gorgonian Zone can show a surprising number of corals. A maximum of 14 species was found. The average diversity is H’=1.9. Dominant corals areS. radians formasiderea, A. agaricites formamassiva, M. cavernosa andP. astreoides.

The diversity was usually lower in the other biotopes studied. The lowest recorded diversity in Cozumel is at the Biostrome of Dzul Ha (H’=1.05). 73% of all the corals found there belong to one species, i.e.P. porties formadivaricata.


Shelf Topography Reef Environment W’Caribbean sea Scleractinian corals Calcareous algae Holocene 

Der Schelf von Cozumel (Mexiko): Topographie und Organismenführung


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© Institut für Paläontologie, Universität Erlangen 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerd Muckelbauer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Paläontologie, UniversitätErlangen

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