Coral Reefs

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 29–34 | Cite as

Darwin Point: A threshold for atoll formation

  • R. W. Grigg


A threshold for atoll formation, herein termed the Darwin Point, exists at the northern end of the Hawaiian Archipelago at 29°N latitude. Hawaiian atolls and coral islands transported northwest by tectonic movement of the Pacific Plate appear to have “drowned” near the Darwin Point during the last 20 million years. Measures of gross carbonate production by corals across the archipelago show that growth rates decrease with increasing latitude. At the Darwin Point, corals may contribute only 20% of the calcium carbonate necessary to keep pace with recent changes in sea level and thus appear to be more important as builders of framework than producers of limestone. Reduction in this function rather than total carbonate production may be the determining factor in the formation of atolls and coral islands. Elsewhere in the world other Darwin Points may exist but probably not at the same latitude due to differences in ecological conditions, coral species composition, island area, rates of erosion and tectonic histories.


Calcium Carbonate Ecological Condition Sedimentology Total Carbonate Determine Factor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adey W (1978) Coral reef morphogenesis: A multidimensional model. Science 202:831–837Google Scholar
  2. Bloom A (1971) Glacial-eustatic and isostatic controls of sea level since the last glaciation. In: Turekian K (ed) The late cenozoic glacial ages. Yale University Press, New Haven pp 355–379Google Scholar
  3. Buddemcier R, Maragos J, Knutson D (1974) Radiographic studies of reef exoskeletons. 1. Rates and patterns of coral growth. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 14:179–200Google Scholar
  4. Chappell J (1974a) Relationship between sea levels, 18O variations and orbital perturbations during the last 250,000 years. Nature 252:199–202Google Scholar
  5. Chappell J (1974b) Late quaternary glacio- and hydro-isostacy on a layered earth. Quaternary Res 4:405–428Google Scholar
  6. Chave K, Smith S, Roy K (1972) Carbonate production by coral reefs. Mar Geol 12:123–140Google Scholar
  7. Dana T (1971) On the reef corals of the world's most northern atoll (Kure: Hawaiian Archipelago). Pac Sci 25:80–87Google Scholar
  8. Darwin C (1942) Coral reefs. Smith Elder, LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. Darwin C (1962) Coral islands—with introduction, map and remarks by D. Stoddart. Atoll Res Bull 88:1–20Google Scholar
  10. Davies P, Kinsey D (1977) Holocene reef growth—One Tree Island, Great Barrier Reef. Mar Geol 24:1–11Google Scholar
  11. Davies T, Wilde P, Clague D (1972) Koko Seamount: a major guyot at the southern end of the Emperor Seamounts. Mar Geol 13:311–321Google Scholar
  12. Greene H, Dalrymple G, Clague D (1978) Evidence for northward movement of the Emperor Seamounts. Geology 6:70–74Google Scholar
  13. Grigg R, Dollar S (1980) The status of reef studies in the Hawaiian Archipelago. In: Grigg R, Pfund R (eds) Proceedings of status of resource investigations in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. UNIHI Seagrant-Mr-80-04:100–119Google Scholar
  14. Gross M, Milliman J, Tracey J, Ladd H (1969) Marine geology of Kure and Midway Atolls, Hawaii: A preliminary report. Pac Sci 23:17–25Google Scholar
  15. Hoffmeister R, Multer M (1964) Growth-rate estimates of a Pleistocene coral reef off Florida. Geol Soc Am Bull 75:353–358Google Scholar
  16. Jackson E, Koisumi I, Dalrymple G, Clague D, Kirkpatrick R, Greene H (1980) Introduction and summary of results from DSDP Leg 55, the Hawaiian-Emperor hot-spot experiment. In: Shambach J (ed) Initial reports of the deep sea drilling project 55. US Govt Printing Office, Washington DC, pp 5–31Google Scholar
  17. Kinsey D (1979) Carbon turnover and accumulation by coral reefs. PhD Thesis, Univ HawaiiGoogle Scholar
  18. Kinsey D, Davies J (1979) Carbon turnover, calcification and growth in coral reefs. In: Trudinger P, Swaine D (eds) Biogeochemical cycling of mineral forming elements. Elsevier Press, Amsterdam, pp 131–162Google Scholar
  19. Knudsen D, Buddemeier R, Smith S (1972) Coral chronometers: seasonal growth bands in reef corals. Science 177:270–272Google Scholar
  20. Ladd H, Tracey J, Gross M (1970) Deep drilling on Midway Atoll. US Geol Survey Prof Paper 680-A:1–22Google Scholar
  21. Land L, Goreau T (1970) Submarine lithification of Jamaican reefs. J Sediment Petrol 40:457–462Google Scholar
  22. Maragos J (1972) A study of the ecology of Hawaiian reef corals. PhD Thesis, Univ of Hawaii, 290 ppGoogle Scholar
  23. McKenzie J, Bernoulli D, Schlanger S (1980) Shallow water carbonate sediments from the Emperor Seamounts: their diagenesis and paleogeographic significance. In: Shamback J, (ed) Initial reports of the deep sea drilling project 55. US Govt Printing Office, Washington DC, pp 415–456Google Scholar
  24. Moore T, Burckle L, Geitzenauer K, Luz B, Molina-Cruz A, Robertson J, Sachs H, Sancetta C, Thiede J, Thompson P, Wenkam C (1980). The reconstruction of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean of 18,000 B.P. Mar Micropaleo 5:215–247Google Scholar
  25. Morgan W (1972) Deep mantle convection plumes and plate motions. Am Assoc Petrol Geol Bull 56:203–213Google Scholar
  26. Purdy E (1974) Reef configurations: cause and effect. In: Laporte L (ed) Reefs in time and space (Soc of Econ Paleon and Min Spec Pub 18:9–76, Tulsa, US)Google Scholar
  27. Rotondo G (1980) A reconstruction of linear island chain positions in the Pacific: a case study using the Hawaiian Emperor chain. MS Thesis, Univ of Hawaii, 58 ppGoogle Scholar
  28. Schlanger S (1963) Subsurface geology of Eniwetok Atoll. US Geol Surv Prof Paper 260-BB:991–1066Google Scholar
  29. Schlanger S, Gillett G (1976) A geological perspective of the upland biota of Laysan Atoll (Hawaiian Islands). Biol Linn Soc 8:205–216Google Scholar
  30. Smith S, Kinsey D (1976) Calcium carbonate production, coral reef growth and sea level change. Science 194:937–939Google Scholar
  31. Thurber D, Broecker W, Blanchard R, Potratz H (1965) Uranium-series ages of Pacific atoll coral. Science 149:55–58Google Scholar
  32. Tracey J, Ladd H (1977) Quaternary history of Enewetak and Bikini Atolls, Marshall Islands. In: Cameron A, Campbell B, Cribb A, Endean R, Jell J, Jones O, Mather P, Talbot F (eds) Proc 2nd Int Coral Reef Symp, vol 2, pp 537–550Google Scholar
  33. Wilson J (1963) A possible origin of the Hawaiian Islands. Can J Phys 41:863–870Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. W. Grigg
    • 1
  1. 1.Hawaii Institute of Marine BiologyKaneohe

Personalised recommendations