The south Adriatic shelf offshore of the predominently carbonate Apulian coast is characterized by a peculiar rough topography interpreted as relic karst formed at a time of lower sea level. The study area covers a surface of about 220 km(2), with depths ranging from 50 to 105 m. The most relevant and diagnostic features are circular depressions a few tens to 150 m in diameter and 0.50 to 20 m deep thought to be dolines at various stages of evolution. The major doline, Oyster Pit, has its top at about 50 m water depth and is 20 m deep. It is partly filled with sediments redeposited by episodic mass failure from the doline's flank. Bedrock samples from the study area document that Plio-Pleistocene calcarenites, tentatively correlated with the Calcarenite di Gravina Fm, are a prime candidate for the carbonate rocks involved in the karstification, although the presence of other units, such as the Peschici or Maio Ilea Fms, is not excluded. The area containing this subaerial karst landscape was submerged about 12,500 years ago as a result of the postglacial transgression over the continental shelf.
We are grateful to masters, crew, and colleagues onboard RV Urania during missions CNR002, ARCO, and ARCADIA. Thanks are due to ROV specialists Danilo Malatesta (cruise ARCO) and Simone Canese and Lorenzo Rossi (cruise ARCADIA). Alessandro De Lorenzi helped with core sample treatment and Stefano Miserocchi with hydrologic information. Mladen Juracic and two anonymous reviewers are thanked for their critical comments to improve this manuscript. Funding was partially provided by CNR, the EU FP-VI HERMES (GOCE-CT-2005-511234-1), the FP-VII HERMIONE project (contract number 226354), COCONET (Grant agreement no: 287844), and the Region Apulia BIOMAP projects. This is ISMAR-Bologna scientific contribution number 1707.
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