, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 173–177 | Cite as

Indo-Pacific and Atlantic spurs and grooves revisited: the possible effects of different Holocene sea-level history, exposure, and reef accretion rate in the shallow fore reef

  • Eberhard Gischler
Original Article


Shallow fore-reef areas worldwide are usually characterized by spurs and grooves. A comparison of examples from the three world oceans suggests that Indo-Pacific spurs and grooves are shaped predominantly by erosion, whereas western Atlantic spur and groove systems are largely a product of constructive processes. I propose that this difference is caused by regional differences in Holocene sea-level change, which controlled exposure to waves and currents, and reef-accretion rates. The transgressive–regressive sea-level curve in the Indo-Pacific realm, i.e., the Mid-to-Late Holocene sea-level fall in these areas has maintained high-energy conditions in the shallow fore reef. Higher exposure to waves and currents favors erosion and leads to a dominance of crustose coralline algae that have relatively slow growth rates. In the western Atlantic, the transgressive Holocene sea level has caused Mid-to-Late Holocene deepening and has maintained accommodation space for reef accretion. Fast-growing acroporid corals thrive under lower exposure and are more common than coralline algae. The fossil record of the spur and groove system is rather poor, which is probably a consequence of the need of excellent, three-dimensional outcrops for identification.


Spur Groove Holocene Reef accretion Sea level 



I dedicate this paper to the memory of Dr. Edward Purdy (1931–2009) who passed away on October 13, 2009. Ed was a sharp-minded carbonate sedimentologist and very successful petroleum geologist who is known for his milestone papers on the Bahamas, Belize, the Maldives, and the antecedent karst model of reef formation. I am grateful to R. N. Ginsburg, H. G. Multer, J. H. Hudson, E. A. Shinn, W. Schlager, W. C. Dullo, and last but not least E. G. Purdy for conversations and discussions over the past years, which were related to Holocene reef accretion including aspects of spur-and-groove formation. The constructive comments of journal reviewers W. C. Dullo (Kiel) and W. Kiessling (Berlin) improved this paper and are gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für GeowissenschaftenGoethe-UniversitätFrankfurt am MainGermany

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