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Texas Coral Reefs

By Jesse Cancelmo; Foreword by Sylvia Earle

Publication Year: 2008

Just one hundred and ten miles south of the Texas-Louisiana border, beneath the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, lie two coral reefs, together called the Flower Garden Banks. This coral community, the northernmost reef system in the United States and a national marine sanctuary, is home to hundreds of kinds of fish and other tropical sea life. Manta rays and turtles visit regularly, as do whale sharks and schools of hammerhead sharks. Other wonders include the annual mass coral spawns and a briny depression called Gollum Lake. Nearby are two other reefs. Stetson Bank, its top spotted with hard corals, mollusks, and sponges, is known for its diversity—from black sea hares to golden smooth trunkfish. At Geyer Bank, thousands of butterfly fish dominate a huge population of tropical fish whose density rivals that of the coral reefs in the South Pacific. Protruding from the flat, muddy continental shelf, these and thirty other natural reefs support an exceptional amount and variety of sea life in Texas waters. They sit amid hundreds of oil and gas platforms, which create their own special reef ecosystems. These reefs, equal in their profusion of life and color to the storied reefs of Florida and Hawaii, have not been widely known to Texans outside of a small group of scientists and divers. With extraordinary photographs and a knowledgeable first-person narrative, author Jesse Cancelmo instills an appreciation for the beauty and fragility of one of the state’s least-known natural environments. Texas Coral Reefs will inspire adventurers—both the underwater and armchair varieties—to enjoy these spectacular but little-known sites that lie so close to home.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Gulf Coast Books Series


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pp. Cover-i

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ii-v


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pp. vi-viii

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pp. ix-xii

The coastal waters of Texas have their charms, with green marshes, sandy beaches, and bordering forests that are vital havens for migrating birds and other wildlife, as well as for millions of people who are attracted to the ineffable lure of the sea. But coral reefs? Who knew that Texas is blessed with coral reefs that host clouds of brilliant tropical reef fish, big barracuda, giant sponges, crimson starfish, mammoth mantas, and hundreds of hammerhead ...

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pp. xiii-xv

I discovered the magic and splendor of the underwater realm more than thirty-five years ago. In 1969 I was vacationing in Bermuda and made a resort scuba dive on a coral reef. It was a life-changing experience. The fish, the corals, the color, the motions, and the emotions were unlike anything I’d seen ...

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pp. xvi-xviii

I have been writing about the Flower Garden Banks and Texas reefs since the early 1980s. The list of people who have supported my efforts is a long one. If I attempted to cite them all I’d surely leave someone out. But there are six individuals who stand out for the special assistance they provided me along the way. To them ...

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pp. 1-8

The Gulf of Mexico is a vast body of water with a rich history, geologically and anthropologically. At one time, the boundaries of the Gulf of Mexico reached across northern Mexico and into the territories of Arizona. Ancient societies of Native Americans depended on its bays and estuaries for sustenance. Today, as technology has allowed us to explore and discover the character of the Gulf of Mexico from its shallowest ...

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Chapter One East and West Flower Garden Banks Twin Jewels in the Gulf

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pp. 9-56

It’s a miracle of nature that two tiny coral reefs just one hundred miles south of the Texas-Louisiana border ever managed a foothold more than four hundred miles away from the nearest coral reefs in Florida and Mexico. Thanks to the Gulf of Mexico’s Loop Currents, conditions at the Flower Garden Banks are typically Caribbean clear and blue. Warm Gulf Stream currents carry the ...

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Chapter Two Stetson Bank A Macrophotographer’s Bonanza

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pp. 57-86

In October 1996 the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration received approval to add Stetson Bank to the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Stetson Bank is a 540-acre siltstone and claystone outcropping that lies seventy-five miles southeast of Freeport, Texas, and thirty miles northwest ...

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Chapter Three Geyer Bank:A Tiny Splendor of Life

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pp. 87-96

Geyer Bank is a very small but truly spectacular deeper reef in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. It hosts an impressive community of tropical fish and sessile reef inhabitants. Because Geyer’s depth is so near the recreational dive limit of 130 feet, it is not on the standard travel plan for the Texas live-aboard dive boats. As a result, few divers in the region have even heard of Geyer Bank, let alone have dived there. Geyer today is about as virgin ...

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Chapter Four Sonnier Bank: A Louisiana Treasure

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pp. 97-104

Known as Three Hickey Rocks by some and Candy Mountain by others, Sonnier Bank was renamed in honor of the late Farley Sonnier, a Louisiana attorney and marine naturalist who devoted much of his life to this unique marine oasis of life. Unlike the Flower Garden Banks that are shared by Texas and Louisiana, Sonnier Bank is truly a Louisiana reef. It’s actually a cluster of eight tiny peaks that form an arc like pattern on the nautical chart. The shallowest and most prominent ...

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Artificial Reefs

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pp. 105-128

Reefs provide an important habitat for myriad marine life, from algae and molluscs to tropical fish and large predators. Reef-forming organisms such as corals need hard surfaces on which to establish a foothold for growth and development. Aside from the relatively few, small, and far-between natural reefs, the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico ...


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pp. 129-133

E-ISBN-13: 9781603442763
E-ISBN-10: 1603442766
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585446339
Print-ISBN-10: 1585446335

Page Count: 152
Illustrations: 95 color photos. 2 maps.
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1
Series Title: Gulf Coast Books Series
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OCLC Number: 659392404
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Texas Coral Reefs

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Subject Headings

  • Coral reefs and islands -- Mexico, Gulf of.
  • Coral reef biology -- Mexico, Gulf of.
  • Coral reef ecology -- Mexico, Gulf of.
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