Discovery of subtropical coral reef in the vicinity of Ny Ålesund

During summer geological fieldwork on Spitsbergen, Dierk Blomeier and his current MSc student Thomas Goode (Southampton, UK) discovered a spectacular fossilised warm-water reef, perfectly exposed along the SW coast of Brøggerhalvøya.

man in fieldwork

Photo: Dierk Blomeier / Norwegian Polar Institute

close-up of the reef

Photo: Dierk Blomeier / Norwegian Polar Institute

MSc student Thomas Goode and Dierk Blomeier.

MSc student Thomas Goode and Dierk Blomeier. Photo: Dierk Blomeier / Norwegian Polar Institute

reef and a hemmer

Photo: Dierk Blomeier / Norwegian Polar Institute

The reef extends a couple of hundred meters along the present-day coastline, and preserves a 300 million-year-old, Lower Carboniferous (Moscovian) subtropical ecosystem. During the Moscovian, Svalbard was located around 25 degrees north, and formed a part of a vast marine shelf at the northern margin of the supercontinent Pangaea. Warm-water conditions prevailed, favourable for reef formation. Tabulate corals, the ancestors of modern stony, reef-building corals, grew in shallow-marine areas. The tabulates formed the main framework of an extended fringing reef over parts of Svalbard. The reef was populated by a high diversity fauna comprising various brachiopods, foraminifers, crinoids, bryozoans, mollusks, trilobites, ostracods and fish.

Due to its exceptional preservation and the outstanding exposure, the fossil reef contributes important information on Svalbard’s geological history, and provides unique insight into marine life and depositional environments during the Late Palaeozoic.