5 Messinian Salinity Crisis: What Happened to Cold-Water Corals?
The fate of bathyal coral communities prior, during and after the environmentally devastating Messinian Salinity Crisis is briefly reviewed. The Messinian Salinity Crisis has created a geologically short-termed but massive disruption to marine life in the Late Miocene Mediterranean Sea. First signs of deteriorating environmental conditions begun about 7.15 Ma ago with a successive reduction of water mass exchange between the open Atlantic Ocean the Mediterranean Sea and progressively diminishing deep-water ventilation in the remaining Mediterranean basins. The resulting deposition of three massive evaporite sequences causes a vivid debate until today on the degree of desiccation ranging from a complete dry-out to a much milder course of events in the Late Miocene marine realm. The sudden marine reflooding via the newly formed Gibraltar gateway at 5.33 Ma abruptly terminated the ecological crisis and gave way to fully marine conditions in the Mediterranean Sea. The preservation and the fate of bathyal corals during this event is fragmentary and still understudied. Existing knowledge indicate that most of the bathyal coral genera and species are present or re-appeared in the Early Pliocene (Zanclean) and that major losses in species richness appeared much later during the advent of the Pliocene.
KeywordsCold-water corals Messinian salinity crisis Miocene Pliocene Bathyal
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