Nature Comm: Coralgal reef morphology records punctuated sea-level rise during the last deglaciation

Paper Link :

Received: 24 November 2016

Accepted: 9 August 2017

Published: 19 October 2017

Abstract: Coralgal reefs preserve the signatures of sea-level fluctuations over Earth’s history, in particular since the Last Glacial Maximum 20,000 years ago, and are used in this study to indicate that punctuated sea-level rise events are more common than previously observed during the last deglaciation. Recognizing the nature of past sea-level rises (i.e., gradual or stepwise) during deglaciation is critical for informing models that predict future vertical behavior of global oceans. Here we present high-resolution bathymetric and seismic sonar data sets of 10 morphologically similar drowned reefs that grew during the last deglaciation and spread 120 km apart along the south Texas shelf edge. Herein, six commonly observed terrace levels are interpreted to be generated by several punctuated sea-level rise events forcing the reefs to shrink and backstep through time. These systematic and common terraces are interpreted to record punctuated sea-level rise events over timescales of decades to centuries during the last deglaciation, previously recognized only during the late Holocene.

Pankaj Khanna 1, André W. Droxler 1, Jeffrey A. Nittrouer 1, John W. Tunnell Jr 2 & Thomas C. Shirley 3

1 Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Rice University, 6100 Main St, Houston, TX 77005, USA.

2 Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies TAMU-CC, 6300 Ocean Dr., Corpus Christi, TX 78412, USA.

3 Department of Life Sciences, TAMU-CC, 6300 Ocean Dr., Corpus Christi, TX 78412, USA. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to P.K. (email: or to A.W.D. (email:

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