Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
|Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary|
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Sponges in Gray's Reef NMS
|Nearest city||Savannah, GA|
|Area||57 km2 (22 sq mi)|
|Governing body||National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is one of the largest near shore live-bottom reefs in the southeastern United States. The sanctuary, designated in January 1981, is located 19 miles (31 km) off Sapelo Island, Georgia, and is one of 14 marine sanctuaries and monuments that make up the U.S. National Marine Sanctuary System.
Within the 22-square-mile (57 km2) sanctuary, there are both rocky ledges and sandy flat places. The reef's rocky sandstone outcrops, submerged beneath 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 m) of water, can be as tall as 2 to 3 m and are highly complex. These nooks and crannies provide plenty of places for invertebrates to latch on to and for fish to hide in. Together these animals form a dense tapestry of living creatures that in places completely hides the rock. That gives the habitat of Gray's Reef its common name — a "live bottom".
Although Gray's Reef is more than 19 miles (31 km) beyond today's shoreline, and 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 m) below the Atlantic Ocean, it was once dry land and part of the mainland as recently as 8,000 years ago.  Human occupation of this area dates back at least 13,250 years, and coincides with one of the most dramatic periods of climate change in recent earth history, toward the end of the Ice Age, in the Late Pleistocene epoch. Sea levels were more than 200 feet lower than present levels, and the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico shorelines were 100 or more miles seaward of their present locations. A 2003 research project undertaken by University of Georgia researchers Ervan G, Garrison, Sherri L. Littman, and Megan Mitchell, looked at and reported on the Gray’s Reef fossils and artifacts, including artifacts from a period of occupation by Clovis culture and Paleoindian hunters dating back more than 10,000 years.
- Noakes, SE; Garrison, EG; McFall, GB (2009). "Underwater Paleontology: Recovery of a Prehistoric Whale Mandible Offshore Georgia". In: Pollock NW, ed. Diving for Science 2009. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences 28th Symposium. Dauphin Island, AL. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
- Thomas Thurman. "The arrival of humans in Georgia". GeorgiaFossils.com. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
- David G. Anderson, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (June 8, 2017). "Paleoindian Period: Overview". New Georgia Encyclopedia (University System of Georgia). Retrieved November 9, 2018.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Official NOAA website: Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary