U–Th dating of calcite corals from the Gulf of Aqaba

Maayan Yehudai*, Boaz Lazar, Neta Bar, Yael Kiro, Amotz Agnon, Yonathan Shaked, Mordechai Stein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Most of the fossil corals in the elevated reef terraces along the Gulf of Aqaba (GOA) were extensively altered to calcite. This observation indicates extensive interaction with freshwater, possibly when the terraces passed through a coastal aquifer that existed along the shores of the GOA, implying a wetter climate during the time of recrystallization from aragonite to calcite. Thus, dating of the recrystallization events should yield the timing of past wetter conditions in the current hyper-arid area of the GOA. In the present study, 18 aragonite and calcite corals were collected from several elevated coral reef terraces off the coast, south of the city of Aqaba. While aragonite corals were dated with the conventional closed system age equation (assuming zero initial Th), the dating of the calcite corals required the development of adequate equations to allow the calculation of both the initial formation age of the aragonite corals and the time of recrystallization to calcite. The two age calculations were based on the assumptions that each reef terrace went through a single and rapid recrystallization event and that the pristine aragonite corals were characterized by a rather uniform initial U concentration, typical for pristine modern corals. Two recrystallization events were identified at 104 ± 6 ka and 124 ± 8 ka. The ages coincide with the timing of sapropel events S4 and S5, respectively, when the African monsoon induced enhanced wetness in the desert area. Considering the age uncertainties, the times of formation of the two major reef terraces are estimated to be ∼124 ka (reef terrace R2) and ∼130 ka (reef terrace R3), matching the peaks in the global sea level during the last interglacial MIS 5e stage. Apparently, sea level of the GOA did not fluctuate a lot during the period between ∼130 ka and ∼104 ka and remained close to the Marine Isotopic stage (MIS) 5e highstand. The availability of freshwater (during the sapropel periods) and limited sea level fluctuations facilitated the recrystallization of the GOA reef corals to calcite.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)285-298
Number of pages14
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Elevated reef terraces
  • Open systems
  • Recrystallization to calcite
  • Red Sea corals
  • Th vs. U plots
  • U vs. U plot
  • U-Th dating


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