Exploring a colossal coral cave

The fossil coral reef at Cañada Honda, on the north coast of Lake Enriquillo, is one of the best studied in the region.

This incredible site shows a near-perfect section of a coral reef, starting with 10-meter thickets of Acropora cervicornis at the top of the section, where the reef crest would have been. This is a coral that today is threatened with extinction. Yet we know from high-resolution carbon dating  by Lisa Greer and colleagues, that here this coral grew uninterrupted for more than 1,000 years.

Just like diving over a reef crest onto the fore-reef, walking down the storm canyon we found ourselves into deeper parts of the reef core, first dominated by Orbicella colonies of many different forms and almost all in life position and finally many huge colonies of Siderastrea.

Coral reefs are complex ecosystems, composed of many species of fish, sponge and corals and molluscs, and sites like Cañada Honda give allow us to capture this complexity in reefs before human impact.

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