Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are key producers of carbonate sediment on reefs today. Despite their importance in modern reef ecosystems, the long-term relationship of CCA with reef development has not been quantitatively assessed in the fossil record. This study includes data from 128 Cenozoic coral reefs collected from the Paleobiology Database, the Paleoreefs Database, as well as the original literature and assesses the correlation of CCA abundance with taxonomic diversity (both corals and reef dwellers) and framework of fossil coral reefs. Chi-squared tests show reef type is significantly correlated with CCA abundance and post-hoc tests indicate higher involvement of CCA is associated with stronger reef structure. Additionally, general linear models show coral reefs with higher amounts of CCA had a higher diversity of reef-dwelling organisms. These data have important implications for paleoecology as they demonstrate that CCA increased building capacity, structural integrity, and diversity of ancient coral reefs. The analyses presented here demonstrate that the function of CCA on modern coral reefs is similar to their function on Cenozoic reefs; thus, studies of ancient coral reef collapse are even more meaningful as modern analogues.
Weiss, A., & Martindale, R. C. (2017). Crustose coralline algae increased framework and diversity on ancient coral reefs. PLoS ONE, 12(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181637