A Paleocene coral—algal—sponge reef from southwestern Alabama and the ecology of Early Tertiary reefs



The Late Paleocene Salt Mountain Limestone from southwestern Alabama is a coral-algal-sponge buildup which further characterizes the faunal makeup of early post-Cretaceous reefs. Thin sectioning has disclosed a variety of lithologies, including large foram-algal packstone, algal bindstone, and sponge bafflestone. A low-diversity fauna of massive scleractinian corals caps the sequence, but may be developed intermittently throughout the section as well. The constructional importance of coralline algae and the low diversity of scleractinian corals are characteristic of Paleocene reefs in general. Sponges, however, are virtually unknown in earliest Tertiary sediments. Their abundance in the Salt Mountain demonstrates not only their local contribution to Early Tertiary reefs, but may also reflect an opportunistic response of sponges as reef constructors following the extinction of oligotrophic, rudist-coral reef communities of the Late Cretaceous. □Paleocene, reef, paleoecology, sponges, extinction.