Coral Reefs

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 765–781 | Cite as

Understanding the murky history of the Coral Triangle: Miocene corals and reef habitats in East Kalimantan (Indonesia)

  • Nadiezhda Santodomingo
  • Willem Renema
  • Kenneth G. Johnson


Studies on ancient coral communities living in marginal conditions, including low light, high turbidity, extreme temperatures, or high nutrients, are important to understand the current structure of reefs and how they could potentially respond to global changes. The main goal of this study was to document the rich and well-preserved fossil coral fauna preserved in Miocene exposures of the Kutai Basin in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Our collections include almost forty thousand specimens collected from 47 outcrops. Seventy-nine genera and 234 species have been identified. Three different coral assemblages were found corresponding to small patch reefs that developed under the influence of high siliciclastic inputs from the Mahakam Delta. Coral assemblages vary in richness, structure, and composition. Platy coral assemblages were common until the Serravallian (Middle Miocene), while branching coral assemblages became dominant in the Tortonian (Late Miocene). By the late Tortonian massive coral assemblages dominated, similar to modern-style coral framework. Our results suggest that challenging habitats, such as the Miocene turbid habitats of East Kalimantan, might have played an important role during the early diversification of the Coral Triangle by hosting a pool of resilient species more likely to survive the environmental changes that have affected this region since the Cenozoic. Further research that integrates fossil and recent turbid habitats may provide a glimpse into the dynamics and future of coral reefs as “typical” clear-water reefs continue to decline in most regions.


Mesophotic Species turnover Paleoenvironments Diversity 



We are grateful for the support of colleagues from the Throughflow Project funded by the Marie Curie Actions Plan, Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union (Grant No. 237922). Thanks to Brian Rosen, Bert Hoeksema, Zarinah Waheed and Danwei Huang for interesting discussions. Jill Darrell, Lyndsey Douglas, and Lil Stevens assisted with the collections curation, and we gratefully acknowledge the enthusiastic support of Ali Thomas and the NHM “V-Factor” volunteers for sample processing. This study was conducted under research license 0266/SIP/FRP/XI/2010 issued by RISTEK with special thanks to Professor Fauzie Hasibuan of the Indonesian Geological Agency.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 101 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 2896 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nadiezhda Santodomingo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Willem Renema
    • 2
  • Kenneth G. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesNatural History MuseumLondonUK
  2. 2.Naturalis Biodiversity CenterLeidenThe Netherlands

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