- 1) Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, P.O. Box 2072, Balboa, Canal Zone
- 2) Civil Engineering Branch, Engineering Division, P. O. Box M, Balboa Heights, Canal Zone
- 3) Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, 92037, La Jolla, California
Structural coral reefs of Recent age are undergoing vigorous growth on the eastern Pacific continental shores of Panamá. Coelenterate hermatypes include 20 species; 3 are hydrocorals in the genusMillepora, a notable new record for the eastern Pacific region; the abundant scleractinians arePocillopora (4 spp.),Pavona (6 spp.) andPorites (5 spp.).Pocillopora is the chief constructor of mound and fringing reefs with massivePavona andPorites sometimes important at the reef base. UninterruptedPocillopora growth characterizes some fringing reefs, forming a vertical framework with observed maximum thickness of 6 m. Binding of coral by encrusting coralline algae imparts a more rigid and coherent structure to the reef crest and peripheral faces. Intra-reef and flanking sediments contain over 90% calcareous matter; the predominant grain constituents arePocillopora, cirriped and mollusk fragments. Reefs attain their greatest development in the Gulf of Chiriquí; the reason for this is sought in the high and stable thermal conditions of this area. Radiometric dating indicates that net vertical reef growth may approach 1 m/250 years or 4000 B. Important coral predators include fishes, a gastropod, paguran decapods andAcanthaster (in certain areas). Quantitative measurements of the feeding rates and population densities of corallivores indicate that predators may destroy approximately one-third of the annual growth of aPocillopora coral community.
- 1 - Physical Sciences ; 2 - Earth and Planetary Sciences ; 3 - General Earth and Planetary Sciences