13. Coral Diversity and Temperature: a Palaeoclimatic Perspective for the Oligo-Miocene of the Mediterranean Region

  1. Maria Mutti4,
  2. Werner Piller5 and
  3. Christian Betzler6
  1. Francesca R. Bosellini1 and
  2. Christine Perrin2,†

Published Online: 3 APR 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118398364.ch13

Carbonate Systems during the Oligocene-Miocene Climatic Transition

Carbonate Systems during the Oligocene-Miocene Climatic Transition

How to Cite

Bosellini, F. R. and Perrin, C. (2012) Coral Diversity and Temperature: a Palaeoclimatic Perspective for the Oligo-Miocene of the Mediterranean Region, in Carbonate Systems during the Oligocene-Miocene Climatic Transition (eds M. Mutti, W. Piller and C. Betzler), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118398364.ch13

Editor Information

  1. 4

    Institut für Erd- und Umweltwissenschaften Universität Potsdam, Postfach 60 15 53 D-14415 Potsdam, Germany

  2. 5

    Institute for Earth Sciences (Geology & Paleontology) University of Graz, Heinrichstrasse 26, A-8010 Graz, Austria

  3. 6

    Geologisch-Palaeontologisches Institut, Bundesstr. 55, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany

Author Information

  1. 1

    Dipartimento di Sciere della Terra, Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Largo S. Eufemia 19, 41100 Modena, Italy

  2. 2

    Laboratoire des Mécanismes et Transferts en Géologie, Université Paul Sabatier, 14 avenue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse & Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paléobiodiversité et Paléoenvironnements (UMR 5143 - USM 203), Département Histoire de la Terre, 8 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France

  1. UMR7207du CNRS, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, CP38, 8 rue Buffon 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 3 APR 2012
  2. Published Print: 5 APR 2012

Book Series:

  1. Special Publication Number 42 of the International Association of Sedimentologists

Book Series Editors:

  1. Ian Jarvis7,8

Series Editor Information

  1. 7

    School of Geography, Geology and the Environment Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research, Kingston University London, UK

  2. 8

    Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2EE, UK

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444337914

Online ISBN: 9781118398364



  • Corals;
  • diversity;
  • palaeotemperatures;
  • Oligocene;
  • Miocene;
  • Mediterranean


Zooxanthellate-coral (z-coral) generic richness values from 102 Oligocene–Miocene localities from the Mediterranean and adjacent areas are tested in this paper as a proxy for relative palaeotemperatures, essentially using the quantitative relationship between taxonomic richness and prevailing seawater temperature underlined by the so-called “energy hypothesis”. Patterns of generic richness and inferred palaeotemperatures are examined for each stage of the Oligocene–Miocene time interval and compared with some global palaeoclimatic curves based on oxygen stable-isotopes. Except for the Mid- Miocene Climatic Optimum, which is not recorded in the generic richness of the Mediterranean z-coral communities, the coral-richness-derived palaeotemperatures correlate well with the general palaeoclimatic trends shown by the isotope curves. Results also show: (1) a gradual increase of temperature from the early to the late Rupelian; and (2) a gradual widening of the temperature range after the Burdigalian. The latter indicates that z-coral communities were able to maintain themselves in the region by progressively adapting to a wider temperature range from the mid-Miocene onwards to the Messinian, as the Mediterranean was migrating northward. Although limitations and biases are underlined and discussed in the paper, the “energy hypothesis” applied to fossil z-coral faunas appears to offer a powerful method when used at global or regional scales to estimate changes in palaeotemperatures. It holds particular promise for time intervals and regions where conventional isotopic data are lacking, such as the Oligocene and Miocene of the Mediterranean.