The Makatea Islands in the southern Cook Islands consist of a degraded volcanic core surrounded by emergent "makatea" limestones. While much of this reefal limestone is of Tertiary age, the seawardmost reefs are late Pleistocene. Last-interglacial reefs (oxygen isotope substage 5e) identified by U-series dating reach 12.2 m on Atiu (mean age of three samples 126,000 �� 5000 yr B.P.), 9.8 m on Mitiaro (mean age of five samples 119,000 �� 3000 yr B.P.), 10.0-12.7 m on Mauke (mean age of four samples 128,000 + 5000, -4,000 yr B.P.), and 14.5-20.0 m on Mangaia (mean age of four samples 115,000 �� 7000 yr B.P.). On Atiu, Mauke, and Mitiaro a lower reef unit has been identified, and is separated from the overlying substage 5e reef by a sharp discontinuity, often with a crust of coralline algae. U-series dating from Atiu and Mauke indicates that this is a stage 7 reef formed in the penultimate interglaciation. The Makatea Islands have emerged as a result of flexure of the lithosphere in response to loading by the Pleistocene volcanic island of Rarotonga. Isolated outcrops of makatea limestone on Rarotonga reach 3.5 m and are probably of substage 5e age. Elastic and viscoelastic models of lithospheric flexure predict that much of the compensatory movement should occur shortly after the emplacement of the load. However, the age and elevation of late Quaternary reefs on the southern Cook Islands, where a Pleistocene volcanic island has loaded relatively old ocean floor (>80 myr), indicate that differential uplift has been continuing over the last 250,000 yr. �� 1991.