International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp 545–570 | Cite as

Palaeoecology of well-preserved coral communities in a siliciclastic environment from the Late Pleistocene (MIS 7), Kish Island, Persian Gulf (Iran): the development of low-relief reef frameworks (biostromes) in increasingly restricted environments

  • Zahra Karimi MossadeghEmail author
  • Justin Parker
  • Eberhard Gischler
  • Wolfgang Oschmann
  • David Blakeway
  • Anton Eisenhauer
Original Paper


Major changes in community structure and depositional relief of high-latitude coral communities in the southern Persian Gulf between marine isotope stage (MIS) 7 and the present day suggest that the area has become increasingly restricted. Corals and bivalves from outcrops on Kish Island, Iran, were identified in order to interpret the Late Pleistocene palaeoenvironmental setting. U/Th disequilibrium dating was used to constrain the ages of the stratigraphic units. During MIS 7, two coral-bearing sequences were deposited on what is now Kish Island. The lower sequence is dated as MIS 7.5 and changes laterally from an assemblage dominated by Cyphastrea sp. and Platygyra daedalea in the west to one characterized by branching Montipora in the east. By contrast, the upper sequence, dated as MIS 7.1, transitions from an assemblage dominated by platy Montipora in the west to a diverse assemblage of Platygyra and other faviids in the east. The assemblages of both sequences are within a marl matrix and bounded by thin lithified mollusc-rich layers. Corals and bivalves indicate that the sequences were deposited on gentle slopes in sheltered environments less than 20 m deep. The MIS 7 deposits may be classified as coral carpets or biostromes that developed a low-relief framework. During MIS 5, coral communities were no longer framework building and are now limited to an Acropora-rich layer of coral rubble that covers large parts of the island, and two small incipient reefs with sparse faviids. Similarities between the MIS 5 and modern nearshore coral communities suggest that the environmental conditions during MIS 5 were comparable to those of today. The late Pleistocene coral carpets and non-framework coral communities of the southern Persian Gulf may serve as models for coral biostromes in the fossil record, which formed under restricted environmental conditions such as elevated terrigenous input, high turbidity, and strong seasonal changes in temperature and/or salinity.


Late Pleistocene Persian Gulf Coral reef Biostrome Bivalves Marine isotope stage 7 



This study was funded under project A3.1 of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (LOEWE), Frankfurt Germany. Advice and suggestions of Dr Hamid Rezai from the Iranian National Centre for Oceanography (INCO), whose help made this study possible, are greatly appreciated. Assistance in the field was provided by Mustafa Khoeniy, Kaveh Samimi and Ali Mirshahidi. Mr Khoeniy is especially acknowledged for helping with the necessary authorities and general advice about Kish Island. Ms Mohammadi and Mr Shirani of the Kish Island Authority are thanked for providing data and information about Kish Island. Export permits were issued by INCO, and permission to conduct the field-work on Kish Island was provided by the Kish Island Authority. Thin sections were prepared by Anja Isaak and Eckehard Gottwald. Rainer Petschick made the XRD analyses. We are grateful to Dan Bosence, Colin Braithwaite and Elias Samankassou, whose detailed comments and suggestions greatly improved the manuscript.

Supplementary material

531_2012_802_MOESM1_ESM.doc (34 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 34 kb)


  1. Alosairi Y, Imberger J, Falconer RA (2011) Mixing and flushing in the Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf). J Geophys Res 116:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brewer PG, Dyrssen D (1985) Chemical oceanography of the Persian Gulf. Prog Oceanogr 14:41–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Browne NK, Smithers SG, Perry CT (2010) Geomorphology and community structure of Middle Reef, central Great Barrier Reef, Australia: an inner-shelf turbid zone reef subject to episodic mortality events. Coral Reefs 29:683–689CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Camoin GF, Ebren Ph, Eisenhauer A, Bard E, Faure G (2001) A 300,000-yr coral reef record of sea-level changes, Mururoa Atoll (Tuamotu archipelago French Polynesia). Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 175:325–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chappell J (1974) Geology of Coral Terraces, Huon Peninsula, New Guinea: a study of quaternary tectonic movements and sea-level changes. Geol Soc Am Bull 85:553–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coles SL, Fadlallah YH (1991) Reef coral survival and mortality at low temperatures in the Arabian Gulf: new species-specific lower temperature limits. Coral Reefs 9:231–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cumings ER (1932) Reefs or bioherms? Geol Soc Am Bull 43:39–67Google Scholar
  8. Eisenhauer A, Zhu ZR, Collins LB, Wyrwoll KH, Eichstätter R (1996) The last interglacial sea level change: new evidence from the Abrolhos Islands, West Australia. Int J Earth Sci 85:606–614Google Scholar
  9. Fatemi SMR, Shokri SR (2001) Iranian coral reef status with particular reference to Kish Island, Persian Gulf. Proc Int Coral Reef Init (ICRI) Regional Workshop for the Indian Ocean, Maputo, Mozambique. 26–28 November, 2001:1–11Google Scholar
  10. Fietzke J, Liebetrau V, Eisenhauer A, Dullo W-C (2005) Determination of uranium isotope ratios by multi-static MIC-ICP-MS: method and implementation for precise U-and Th-series isotope measurements. J Anal At Spectrom 20:395–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ghazban F (2007) Petroleum geology of the Persian Gulf. Tehran University and National Iranian Oil Company, Tehran, p 707Google Scholar
  12. Ginsburg RN, Lowenstam H (1958) The influence of marine bottom communities on the depositional environment of sediments. J Geol 66:310–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gischler E, Lomando AJ, Al-Hazeem SH, Fiebig J, Eisenhauer A, Oschmann W (2005) Coral climate proxy data from a marginal reef area, Kuwait, northern Arabian-Persian Gulf. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 228:86–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gischler E, Hudson JH, Storz D (2009) Growth of Pleistocene massive corals in south Florida: low skeletal extension rates and possible ENSO, decadal, and multi-decadal cyclicities. Coral Reefs 28:823–830CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Greenstein BJ, Pandolfi JM (2008) Escaping the heat: range shifts of reef coral in coastal Western Australia. Glob Change Biol 14:513–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hauser I, Oschmann W, Gischler E (2007) Modern bivalve shell assemblages on three atolls offshore Belize (Central America, Caribbean Sea). Facies 53:452–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hendy EJ, Lough JM, Gagan MK (2003) Historical mortality in massive Porites from the central Great Barrier Reef, Australia: evidence for past environmental stress? Coral Reefs 22:207–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hosseinzadeh H, Daghoghi B, Rameshi H (2001) Atlas of Persian Gulf molluscs. Ministry, Iranian Fisheries Research Organisation, Tehran, p 208Google Scholar
  19. Imbrie J, Hays JD, Martinson DG, McIntyre A, Mix AC, Morley JJ, Pisias NG, Prell WL, Shackleton NJ (1984) The orbital theory of Pleistocene climate: support from a revised chronology of the marine d18 record. In: Berger AL, Imbrie J, Hays J, Kukla G, Saltzman B (eds) Milankovitch and climate, part I. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, pp 269–305Google Scholar
  20. James NP, Macintyre IG (1985) Carbonate depositional environments. Modern and ancient. Part l. Reefs. Zonation, depositional facies, diagenesis. Colo School Mines Q 80:1–70Google Scholar
  21. Johnson ME, Libbey LK (1997) Global review of upper Pleistocene (substage 5e) rocky shores: tectonic segregation, substrate variation, and biological diversity. J Coast Res 13:297–307Google Scholar
  22. Johnson DP, Risk MJ (1987) Fringing reef on a terrigenous mud foundation, Fantome Island, central Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Sedimentology 34:275–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kampf JK, Sadrinasab M (2006) The circulation of the Persian Gulf: a numerical study. Ocean Sci 2:27–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kershaw S (1994) Classification and geological significance of biostromes. Facies 31:81–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kindler P, Reyzz J-L, Cazala C, Plagnes V (2007) Discovery of a composite reefal terrace of middle and late Pleistocene age in Inagua Island (Bahamas). Implications for regional tectonics and sea-level history. Sediment Geol 194:141–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lambeck KS (1996) Shoreline reconstructions for the Persian Gulf since the last glacial maximum. Earth Planet Sci Lett 142:43–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McClanahan TR, Obura D (1997) Sedimentation effects on shallow coral communities in Kenya. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 209:103–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mossadegh ZK, Parker JH, Gischler E (2012) Biodiversity and community structure of Late Pleistocene foraminifera from Kish Island, Persian Gulf (Iran). Facies. doi: 10.1007/s10347-011-0286-9 Google Scholar
  29. Multer HG, Gischler E, Lundberg J, Simmons KR, Shinn EA (2002) Key Largo Limestone revisited: pleistocene shelf-edge facies, Florida Keys, USA. Facies 46:229–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nakamori T (1986) Community structures of recent and Pleistocene hermatypic corals in the Ryukyu Islands, Japan. Sci Rep Tohoku Univ (2nd Ser geol) 56:71–133Google Scholar
  31. Nakamori T, Iryu Y, Yamada T (1995) Development of coral reefs of the Ryukyu Islands (southwest Japan, East China Sea) during Pleistocene sea-level change. Sediment Geol 99:215–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pirazzoli PA, Reyss JL, Dontugne M, Haghipour A, Hilgers A, Kasper HU, Nazari H, Preusser F, Radtke U (2004) Quaternary coral-reef terraces from Kish and Qeshm Islands, Persian Gulf: new radiometric ages and tectonics implications. Quat Int 121:15–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Plaziat J-C, Reyss J-L, Choukri A, Cazala C (2008) Diagenetic rejuvenation of raised coral reefs and precision of dating. The contribution of the Red Sea reefs to the question of reliability of the Uranium-series datings of middle to late Pleistocene key reef-terraces of the world. Carnets de Géologie 2008/04:1–35Google Scholar
  34. Potts DC, Done TJ, Isdale PJ, Fisk DA (1985) Dominance of a coral community by the genus Porites (Scleractinia). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 23:79–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Poutiers JM (1995) Bivalves. In: Fischer W, Krupp F, Schneider W, Sommer W, Carpenter KE, Niem VH (eds) FAO species identification guide for fishery purpose. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific 1: pp 686, 99–222Google Scholar
  36. Preusser F, Radtke U, Fontugne M, Haghipour A, Hilhers A, Kasper HU, Nazari H, Pirazzoli PA (2003) ESR dating of raised coral reefs from Kish Island, Persian Gulf. Quat Sci Rev 22:1317–1322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Purdy EG, Gischler E (2003) The Belize margin revisited: 1. Holocene marine facies. Int J Earth Sci 92:532–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Purdy EG, Gischler E, Lomando AJ (2003) The Belize margin revisited: 2. Origin of Holocene antecedent topography. Int J Earth Sci 92:552–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Purkis SJ, Renegar DA, Riegl BM (2011) The most temperature-adapted corals have an Achilles’ Heel. Mar Poll Bull 62:246–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Purser BH (1973) The Persian Gulf. Holocene carbonate sedimentation and diagenesis in a shallow epicontinental sea. Springer, Berlin, p 471Google Scholar
  41. Rezai H, Wilson S, Claereboudt M, Riegl B (2004) Coral reef status in ROPME Sea area. In: Wilkinson CR (ed) Status of coral reefs of the world. Austral Inst Mar Sci, Townsville, pp 155–170Google Scholar
  42. Riegl B (1995) Effects of sand deposition on scleractinian and alcyonacean corals. Mar Biol 121:517–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Riegl B (1999) Corals in a non-reef setting in the southern Arabian Gulf (Dubai, UAE): fauna and community structure in response to recurring mass mortality. Coral Reefs 18:63–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Riegl B (2002) Effects of the 1996 and 1998 positive sea-surface temperature anomalies on corals, coral diseases and fish in the Arabian Gulf (Dubai, UAE). Mar Biol 140:29–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Riegl B (2003) Climate change and coral reefs: different effects in two high-latitude areas (Arabian Gulf, South Africa). Coral Reefs 22:433–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Riegl B, Piller W (1997) Distribution and environmental control of coral assemblages in northern Safaga Bay (Red Sea, Egypt). Facies 36:141–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Riegl B, Piller WE (2000) Reefs and coral carpets in the northern Red Sea as models for organism-environment feedback in coral communities and its reflectionin growth fabrics. In: Insalaco E, Skelton PW, Palmer TJ (eds) Carbonate platform systems: components and interactions. Geol Soc Spec Publ 178:71–88Google Scholar
  48. Rohling EJ, Grant K, Bolshaw M, Roberts AP, Siddall M, Hemleben C, Kucera M (2009) Antarctic temperature and global sea level closely coupled over the past five glacial cycles. Nat Geosci 2:500–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Salm RV (1993) Coral reefs of the sultanate of Oman. Atoll Res Bull 380:1–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Samimi-Namin K, Risk MJ, Hoeksema BW, Zohari Z, Rezai H (2010) Coral mortality and serpulid infestations associated with red tide, in the Persian Gulf. Coral Reefs 29:509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sanders D, Baron-Szabo RC (2005) Scleractinian assemblages under sediment input: their characteristics and relation to the nutrient input concept. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 216:139–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sheppard CRC, Loughland R (2002) Coral mortality and recovery in response to increasing temperature in the southern Arabian Gulf. Aquat Ecosyst Health Manag 5:395–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sheppard CRC, Sheppard ALS (1991) Corals and coral communities of Arabia. Fauna of Saudi Arabia 12. Frankfurt, pp 419Google Scholar
  54. Sheppard CRC, Wilson SC, Salm RV, Dixon D (2000) Reefs and coral communities of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In: McClanahan T, Sheppard CRC, Obura D (eds) Coral reefs of the Western Indian Ocean: ecology and conservation. Oxford University Press, UK, pp 257–294Google Scholar
  55. Sheppard C, Al-Husiani M, Al-Jamali F, Al-Yamani F, Baldwin R, Bishop J, Benzoni F, Dutrieux E, Dulvy NK, Durvasula SRV, Jones DA, Loughland R, Medio D, Nithyanandan M, Pilling GM, Polikarpov I, Price ARG, Purkis S, Riegl B, Saburova M, Samimi Namin K, Taylor O, Wilson S, Zainal K (2010) The Gulf: a young sea in decline. Mar Poll Bull 60:13–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shinn EA (1976) Coral reef recovery in Florida and the Persian Gulf. Environ Geol 1:241–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sirocko F, Sarnthein M (1989) Wind-borne deposits in the northwestern Indian Ocean: Record of Holocene sediments versus modern satellite data. 401-433 In: Leinen M, Sarnthein M (eds) Paleoclimatology and paleometeorology: Modern and past patterns of global atmospheric transport. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Berlin pp 909Google Scholar
  58. Stirling CH, Esat TM, McCulloch MT, Lambeck K (1995) High-precision U-series dating of corals from Western Australia and implications for the timing and duration of the Last Interglacial. Earth Plan Sci Let 135:115–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stoddart DR, Scoffin TP (1979) Microatolls: review of form, origin and terminology. Atoll Res Bull 224:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stoffers P, Ross DA (1979) Late Pleistocene and Holocene sedimentation in the Persian Gulf—Gulf of Oman. Sediment Geol 23:181–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Strasser A, Strohmenger C, Davaud E, Bach A (1992) Sequential evolution and diagenesis of Pleistocene coral reefs (South Sinai, Egypt). Sediment Geol 78:59–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sugden W (1963) The hydrology of the Persian Gulf and its significance in respect to evaporite deposition. Am J Sci 261:741–755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tudhope AW, Scoffin TP (1994) Growth and structure of fringing reefs in a muddy environment, South Thailand. J Sediment Res A64:752–764Google Scholar
  64. Vogt H (1996) Korallenriffe im Persischen Golf. Auswirkungen des Golfkrieges untersucht mittels Unterwasservideoaufnahmen. Unpubl PhD-thesis, Univ EssenGoogle Scholar
  65. Wilson SS, Fatemi MR, Shokri MR, Claereboudt M (2002) Status of coral reefs of the Persian/Arabian Gulf and Arabian Sea region. In: Wilkinson CR (ed) Status of coral reefs of the world: 2002. GCRMN Report, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, pp 53–62Google Scholar
  66. Zhu ZR, Wyrwoll KH, Collins LB, Chen JH, Wasserburg GJ, Eisenhauer A (1993) High-pecision U-series dating of Last Interglacial events by mass spectrometry: Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. Earth Planet Sci Lett 118:281–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zahra Karimi Mossadegh
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Justin Parker
    • 1
    • 5
  • Eberhard Gischler
    • 2
  • Wolfgang Oschmann
    • 2
  • David Blakeway
    • 3
  • Anton Eisenhauer
    • 4
  1. 1.Biodiversity and Climate Research CentreFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Institut für GeowissenschaftenGoethe UniversitätFrankfurt am MainGermany
  3. 3.Fathom 5 Marine ResearchLathlainAustralia
  4. 4.Geomar, Helmholtz-Zentrum für OzeanforschungKielGermany
  5. 5.School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, M004University of Western AustraliaCrawley, PerthAustralia

Personalised recommendations