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The Capitan limestone is in part an immense fossil coral reef. The reef itself can be followed from Capitan Point at the south end of the Guadalupe Mountains almost continuously to the vicinity of Carlsbad, New Mexico, where it dips under the plains. The reef formed a barrier separating an open sea with normal marine conditions on the south from a restricted and, in later stages, a super-saline sea on the north. Equivalent formations on opposite sides of the reef are markedly dissimilar. Recognition of buried coral reefs and their relationship is highly important in interpreting the stratigraphy of the Permian basin.
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