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Fossil-Treasures-of-Florida-Newsletter, Issue #0021 -- Windley Key Fossil Reef
January 09, 2014
Fossil Newsletter, Issue #0021 - Windley Key Fossil Reef
In this Issue:
* Windley Key Fossil Reef
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Windley Key Fossil Reef
If you are ever down in the Florida Keys, you should check out the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park. Right off the main road US 1, (of course, there is only one main road in the keys).
The quarry walls are 8’ high and have abundant fossil corals embedded in them. In the older quarrying method they would drill holes close together and pry away a slab from the quarry wall. Later methods were to channel blocks free and saw slabs off the block.
There are 5 leading structure building corals that have been identified at Windley Key. These major species are Mustard Hill Coral (Porites astreoides), Boulder Star Coral (Montastrea annularis), and Brain Corals (Diplora strigosa, Diplora clivosa and Diplora labyrinthiforms).
One can see individual cells on the fossil coral head. This small hole once contained a coral polyp, which is a small animal with stinging tentacles that also collect food.
This is an abandoned limestone rock (fossil) quarry; and the material is known as “Key Largo Limestone” or shortened to “keystone”. The entire quarry is made up of a Pleistocene fossil reef, estimated between 100-125,000 years old. A majority of the keys are formed on a fossil reef system. The ocean levels rose and fell greatly since the last Ice Age, and stabilized over the last 5,000 years. The top 25 feet of the old coral reef became exposed, died and laid the foundation to form most of the Florida Keys.
Re-occurring small red bands or lines have been found in the fossil limestone, and have been identified as Sahara Desert dust blown in from Africa.
The Giant Date Mussel (Lithophaga), similar to a clam, is 1 to 5 inches in length and lives by boring into the coral. It produces an acid that dissolves the limestone. Other animals also make holes in the coral and they include boring barnacles, tiny crabs, clams and additional mussels.
Most all of the fossil coral specimens can be found in the coral patch reefs today.
In 1908, Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway bought the Homestead land from the Russell Family, for $852.80. The quarry was used to build the Overseas Railroad and furnishing it with tons of fill for track beds and bridge avenues. Once the railroad was built in 1912, the polished fossil limestone was supplied all over the country as an ornamental tile construction stone.
Three quarries make up this geological site: Windley Quarry, Flagler Quarry and Russell Quarry. Two types of quarrying styles were used: one was dynamite blasting for fill material and the other was limestone cutting for construction stone materials.
The top layer of rock found in Miami and the lower keys is called Miami Limestone or oolite. It is different than the Key Largo Limestone and is formed from calcium carbonate covered sand grains called ooids.
The quarry was still in operation off and on, until 1968. The State bought the 32 acre track of land in 1985 for $3.2 Million and dedicated a new environmental education center to it on January 23, 1999.
Today, there is an active fossil limestone quarry in Florida City, Florida that produces commercial fossil "Key Largo Limestone".
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