[Coral-List] Darwin was WRONG about reef formation

Rupert Ormond rupert.ormond.mci at gmail.com
Mon Oct 19 09:47:18 UTC 2020

Yes I pretty much agree with Doug.

As usual Darwin had the key insight, and unfortunately headlines 
claiming that he was wrong risk inciting conspiracists and 
fundamentalists. Even a hundred years ago we realised from Daly's work 
on Glacial Control Theory that the results of Darwin's geological 
upheavals were likely greatly amended by shorter eustatic processes.

As a result, 50 years ago, I was teaching in classes that ironically The 
Australian Great Barrier Reef is not a Barrier Reef, and that the huge 
Atolls of the Maldives are not atolls (despite atoll being a Maldivian 
word in origin) - AT LEAST in the "Darwinian Sense".

Despite this, in the last decade or so I keep seeing people mentioning 
the Great Barrier Reef as the best example of a Barrier Reef, and the 
Maldives as providing the best examples of atolls - perhaps in writing 
by authors whose expertise in newer branches of bioscience left no time 
for reading in basic reef biology. Was I wrong all those years??

I guess it all depends what you mean by a barrier reef or an atoll?



*Prof. Rupert Ormond***

**Co-Director, Marine Conservation International
Hon. Professor, Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology, 
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

On 16/10/2020 23:51, Douglas Fenner via Coral-List wrote:
> or so says a new article:
> Popular piece:
> Study: Darwin's theory about coral reef atolls is fatally flawed
> http://news.rice.edu/2020/10/12/study-darwins-theory-about-coral-reef-atolls-is-fatally-flawed-2/
> Original review:
> The origin of Modern Atolls: Challenging Darwin's Deeply Ingrained Theory
> https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-marine-122414-034137
> My thoughts, based on reading the popular article and the abstract for the
> review:
> Yes, if you define an "atoll" as a ring of coral at the surface, and you
> carefully ignore that it is on top of an accumulation of up to a mile of
> coral reef carbonate, which is in turn on top of a two mile tall volcano
> which all the evidence shows has indeed subsided with the ocean floor plate
> as it moves across the ocean, then yes, sea level fluctuations with the
> glaciation cycle are widely acknowledged to affect the coral reef
> structure.  It appears that maybe the new thing in this review is that the
> present ring is relatively young and built on top of the raised ring left
> from low sea level stands when rainwater was dissolving the carbonate in
> the center of the ring.  Actually, I don't think even that is new, though
> their being a flat topped bank in between time may be new.  This is a
> further embellishment on top of the Darwin theory, NOT a disproof of his
> theory, which is heavily documented.  The argument back then was whether
> there was a volcano under the carbonate, which drilling proved was correct
> and is no longer in doubt.
>       Perhaps by reading the entire review it will be clear that the review
> isn't saying that Darwin was wrong about subsidence and a volcano being
> under the carbonate, or that there was a sequence from fringing to barrier,
> to atoll, but even the title of the review implies it is.  But of course
> you attract a lot more attention saying that "Darwin was wrong."
>        What do geologists think?
> Cheers, Doug

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