Mollusc Fauna Associated with Late Pleistocene Coral Reef Systems of the Saudi Arabian Side of the Gulf of Aqaba

  • Lorenzo Angeletti
  • Najeeb M. A. Rasul
  • Marco Taviani


The Saudi Arabian eastern side of the Gulf of Aqaba has been recently explored all along its length, and the main Pleistocene coral reef outcrops identified and sampled for macrofossils. Terraces ascribable to the last interglacial, the Marine Isotope Stage 5e (MIS5e, ~125kyr BP), predominate and contain a well preserved fossil legacy of sea life at the time. Molluscs proved to represent the most diverse component in the macrobenthos, overwhelming at species up to family levels other benthic groups. As many as 124 families of marine molluscs have been identified in this fossil system, 86 of which pertain to Gastropoda, 31 to Bivalvia, 5 to Polyplacophora and 2 to Scaphopoda. No less than 277 genera are represented in the fossil mollusc fauna, and the diversity is well in excess of 400 species. Molluscs are a fundamental clue for classifying with relative precision the former habitats preserved in these MIS5e coral systems. By and large, the MIS5e deposits document former back reef to fore-reef environments and, to a minor degree, beach or mangal settings. The fauna includes also some index-fossils of ecostratigraphic significance for recognizing MIS5e deposits in the Red Sea. The MIS5e fauna of the Gulf of Aqaba is an astonishing example of a tropical marine biodiversity hotspot whose number of species and genera is not rivalled globally by any known coeval mollusc fauna.



This paper is dedicated to the memory of geologist Marcello Facundo Quarantini (1972-2018). We thank the Saudi Geological Survey for the invitation to present this study at the ‘2nd Red Sea Book Workshop’ held in Jeddah on February 2016. The expedition in the Gulf of Aqaba was promoted and funded by the Saudi Geological Survey in Jeddah. We acknowledge all participants in the winter 2013 field party and the SGS personnel for field work and post-expedition sample processing. In particular, the raised coral reefs considered here were surveyed together with Bill Bosworth and Paolo Montagna. We are very grateful to Martin Zuschin and two anonymous referees for their critical comments. This paper is part of the PRIN2012 Programme (Project 20125JKANY_002, Principal Investigator Marco Ligi) and is Ismar-CNR, Bologna, Scientific contribution no. 1903.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorenzo Angeletti
    • 1
  • Najeeb M. A. Rasul
    • 2
  • Marco Taviani
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Istituto di Scienze Marine (ISMAR-CNR)BolognaItaly
  2. 2.Center for Marine Geology, Saudi Geological SurveyJeddahSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.Biology DepartmentWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  4. 4.Stazione Zoologica Anton DohrnNaplesItaly

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