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ABSTRACT

Stromatolitic crusts on stick-like and platy Porites corals forming Messinian reefs in Almería played an important role in supporting and binding the brittle corals. The crusts were previously regarded as probable marine cements. However, their clotted, peloidal, and micritic fabrics are directly comparable with those of stromatolites. They accreted allochthonous grains even on vertical faces, and include bushy fabrics closely comparable with those produced by cyanobacterial calcification. They contain numerous fenestrae, exhibit rapid fabric variation, and locally form micro-columns and laminated domes. Their similarities to peloid micrite crusts in Recent reefs suggest that at least some of these Recent crusts are microbial in origin, even though they have widely been interpreted as marine cements.

The sedimentary effects of crust development substantially affected both the morphology and relief of the reefs and the generation of reefal clasts. Binding of the reef-frame in the Pinnacle and Thicket zones in the lower and middle parts of the reef created a rigid margin which shed large (commonly up to 5 m) cuboidal blocks of coral-stromatolite frame. The blocks broke along planes of weakness provided by the vertical Porites sticks and were deposited on the Fore-Reef Slope. In the uppermost parts of the reefs crusts dominate the structure, constituting 80% or more of the rock. Veneers up to 15 cm thick encrust thin irregular Porites plates to create a solid Reef Crest Zone which has not been recognized before.

The coral-stromatolite framework is associated with echinoids, crustose corallines and halimedacean algae which, together with the scleractinians, indicate normal marine salinity throughout reef growth.