Oligocene coral evolution in Puerto Rico and Antigua: morphometric analysis of Agathiphyllia, Antiguastrea, and Montastraea

Tracy Ann Neil Champagne, University of Iowa


The University of Iowa Paleontology Repository maintains an extensive collection of Caribbean coral specimens. This study includes 285 specimens, of which approximately 75 are thin-sections of three previously identified Oligocene genera including: Montastraea Blainville, 1830 (=Orbicella Dana 1846), Antiguastrea Vaughan, 1919, and Agathiphyllia Reuss, 1864 (=Cyathomorpha Reuss, 1868). This study includes: photography of colony surfaces and thin-sections of representative specimens of each species, and the identification of the three Oligocene genera Montastraea, Antiguastrea, and Agathiphyllia to the species level. This study compared the collections with the agathiphyllid stratigraphic ranges in the Paleobiology Database, curated these specimens, and then entered the information into the database, SpecifyTM. These continued efforts aid in better understanding diagnostic morphologic characters of three genera: Antiguastrea, Agathiphyllia, and Montastraea. Two of the genera, Antiguastrea and Agathiphyllia, are extinct. Because the differences in morphology are subtle and not very well understood, previous biodiversity studies using the colony surface for correct species identification have been difficult and often inaccurate. Montastraea is further complicated by recent research that suggests it is polyphyletic and contains multiple species complexes, based on the combined use and creation of more morphological characters and on molecular phylogenetics. Additionally, this study assists with the understanding of the biodiversity of these Oligocene coral genera in the Caribbean region prior to the Plio-Pleistocene extinction event, and the evolutionary history of coral diversity in this region. Though there was an extinction event across the Caribbean, the locality species richness, using Fisher's α and Shannon's H, showed no significant differences between the Late Oligocene formations and the Early Miocene formations.