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Palaeoenvironments of the Continental

Intercalaire fossil from the Late Cretaceous
(Barremian-Albian) in North Africa: ....

Article in Arabian Journal of Geosciences · March 2013

DOI: 10.1007/s12517-012-0804-2


4 748

5 authors, including:

Younes Hamed Samir Anwar Al-Gamal

Faculty of Science of Gafsa University of Engineering and Technology, T…


Hamed Ben Dhia

University of Sfax


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Metadata of the article that will be visualized in OnlineFirst

1 Article Title Palaeoenv ironments of the Continental Intercalaire fossil from

the Late Cretaceous (Barremian-Albian) in North Africa: a case
study of southern Tunisia
2 Article Sub- Title
3 Article Copyright - Saudi Society for Geosciences 2012
Year (This w ill be the copyright line in the final PDF)
4 Journal Name Arabian Journal of Geosciences
5 Family Name Hamed
6 Particle
7 Given Name Younes
8 Suffix
9 Organization City Campus Erriadh-Zirig
10 Division Faculty of Sciences of Gabes, Department of Earth
11 Address Gabes 6072, Tunisia
12 Organization Water, Energy and Environmental Laboratory
(L3E)—School of Engineers
13 Division
14 Address Soukra Street Km 3.5, BP.W, Sfax 3038, Tunisia
15 e-mail
16 Family Name Al-Gamal
17 Particle
18 Given Name Samir Anw ar
19 Suffix
20 Organization University of Engineering and Technology (UET)
21 Division Department of Civil Engineering
22 Address Taxila, Pakistan
23 e-mail
24 Family Name Ali
25 Particle
26 Given Name Wassim
27 Suffix

28 Organization Karlsruhe University (former) Institute of Applied

29 Division Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
30 Address Karlsruhe, Germany
31 e-mail
32 Family Name Nahid
33 Particle
34 Given Name Abederazzak
35 Suffix
36 Organization Faculty of Sciences of Marrakech (Morocco)
37 Division Department of Earth Sciences
38 Address Marrakech, Morocco
39 e-mail
40 Family Name Dhia
41 Particle
42 Given Name Hamed Ben
43 Suffix
44 Author Organization Water, Energy and Environmental Laboratory
(L3E)—School of Engineers
45 Division
46 Address Soukra Street Km 3.5, BP.W, Sfax 3038, Tunisia
47 e-mail
48 Received 5 September 2012
49 Schedule Revised
50 Accepted 11 December 2012
51 Abstract Through the Late Cretaceous, the southern shore of the Tethys
Ocean migrated north and south over short distances. These
vicissitudes are documented in the Continental Intercalaire, a long
series of mainly non-marine sediments deposited in which dinosaur
or other reptiles tracks and floral fossils are common across southern
Tunisia (North Africa). A combined taxonomic, climatological, and
palaentological studies provides independent lines of evidence for
reconstruction of palaeoenvironments. The Bou Hedma/Boulouha
and Sidi Aïch/Douiret Formations from southern Tunisia span the
later part of the Late Cretaceous. During the Late Cretaceous the
Tunisian territory was an archipelago, thus a particularly suitable
area for a more detailed study. We investigated the area’s plant
palaeo-biogeography, using fossil wood, with information from both
a literature survey and investigation of new samples. The presence
of fossils at great depths and distances from the present coastline,
without signs of abrasion and far from areas of fluvial discharges
does indicate that these remains have not been transported from

the continent to the shelf, but have been preserved directly on the
area that today correspond to the continental shelf. The climate
during the accumulation of Barremian-Albian deposits in this region
is inferred to have been warm and humid.
52 Keywords Continental Intercalaire - Fossiliferous deposits - Late Cretaceous -
separated by ' - ' North Africa - Tunisia
53 Foot note
AUTHOR'S PROOF! JrnlID 12517_ArtID 804_Proof# 1 - 19/12/2012

Arab J Geosci
DOI 10.1007/s12517-012-0804-2

4 Palaeoenvironments of the Continental Intercalaire fossil

5 from the Late Cretaceous (Barremian-Albian) in North
6 Africa: a case study of southern Tunisia
7 Younes Hamed & Samir Anwar Al-Gamal & Wassim Ali &
8 Abederazzak Nahid & Hamed Ben Dhia

9 Received: 5 September 2012 / Accepted: 11 December 2012

10 # Saudi Society for Geosciences 2012

12 Abstract Through the Late Cretaceous, the southern span the later part of the Late Cretaceous. During the 23

13 shore of the Tethys Ocean migrated north and south Late Cretaceous the Tunisian territory was an archipel- 24
14 over short distances. These vicissitudes are documented ago, thus a particularly suitable area for a more detailed 25
15 in the Continental Intercalaire, a long series of mainly study. We investigated the area’s plant palaeo- 26
16 non-marine sediments deposited in which dinosaur or
biogeography, using fossil wood, with information from 27
17 28
other reptiles tracks and floral fossils are common both a literature survey and investigation of new sam-
18 across southern Tunisia (North Africa). A combined ples. The presence of fossils at great depths and dis- 29
19 taxonomic, climatological, and palaentological studies tances from the present coastline, without signs of 30

20 provides independent lines of evidence for reconstruc- abrasion and far from areas of fluvial discharges does 31
21 tion of palaeoenvironments. The Bou Hedma/Boulouha indicate that these remains have not been transported 32
22 and Sidi Aïch/Douiret Formations from southern Tunisia from the continent to the shelf, but have been preserved 33

directly on the area that today correspond to the conti- 34


nental shelf. The climate during the accumulation of 35

Barremian-Albian deposits in this region is inferred to 36

Y. Hamed (*)
Q1 Faculty of Sciences of Gabes, Department of Earth Sciences, have been warm and humid. 37

City Campus Erriadh-Zirig, 6072 Gabes, Tunisia

Keywords Continental Intercalaire . Fossiliferous deposits . 38

Y. Hamed : H. B. Dhia Late Cretaceous . North Africa . Tunisia 39


Water, Energy and Environmental Laboratory (L3E)—School

of Engineers, Soukra Street Km 3.5, BP.W,
3038 Sfax, Tunisia
Introduction 40 Q2
H. B. Dhia
e-mail: At the boundary between the humid environments of North 41
Africa tropics is an ideal region to explore the long-term 42
S. A. Al-Gamal
dynamics of Africa’s monsoon systems as they interact with 43
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Engineering and
Technology (UET), Taxila, Pakistan the region’s subtropical high-pressure systems. Fossils of 44
e-mail: terrestrial faunal and floral preserved in sub-marine and 45
continental environment have been recorded in several pla- 46
W. Ali
ces around the world (America, Europe, China, India, 47
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe University
(former) Institute of Applied Geosciences, Karlsruhe, Germany Mongolia…) (Avanzini et al. 1997; Chang 1975; Bertini et 48
e-mail: al. 1993; Apesteguia 2002…). In Tunisia both animal and 49
plant trace fossils were recognized in the floodplain deposits 50
A. Nahid
and are rather abundant in the southernmost portion of the 51
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Sciences of Marrakech
(Morocco), Marrakech, Morocco coast, associated to fossiliferous concentrations. The 52
e-mail: Continental Intercalaire deposits of southern Tunisia preserve 53
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54 one of the most diverse Early Cretaceous vertebrate fauna inherited from the NW-SE compressional phase (Jallouli and 63
55 from Africa, consisting of elasmobranchs, actinopterygians, Mickus 2000; Bouaziz et al. 2002). The Late Cretaceous 64
56 sarcopterygians, turtles, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and non- sedimentary successions of North Africa show evidence of 65
57 avian dinosaurs (Federico et al. 2012). Tunisia is located in the many minor cycles of transgression and regression as the 66
58 eastern edge of North Africa, between the Mediterranean Sea, southern margin of the Tethys Ocean moved north and south. 67
59 Algeria, and Libya (Fig. 1). The study area belongs to the These were important times palaeo-geographically, as the 68
60 western Palaeotethys margin of the North African plate; it is a North Atlantic Ocean continued to open, as the South 69
61 transition zone between the Sahara fields to the south and the Atlantic Ocean began to open, and as land connections be- 70
62 Atlasic belt to the north. It corresponds to a folded structure tween Africa and Europe, perhaps across the Iberian 71


Q3 Fig. 1 Geological map and the location of paleontological sites investigated in the southern Tunisia
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72 Peninsula, waxed and waned. This story is told in a long equivocal: for example, the discovery of shark fossils has 94
73 sequence of sediments termed loosely the Continental been said to indicate that the deposits were non-marine, but 95
74 Intercalaire (CI) (Lapparent 1960) that are found across several of these Mesozoic shark groups were almost certainly 96
75 North Africa both north and south of the Desert. These suc- freshwater. Without clear indications of depositional environ- 97
76 cessions range in age from Mid Jurassic to Mid Cretaceous, ment at a local level, it has proved hard to interpret the palae- 98
77 and they are largely non-marine, but with occasional minor ogeography of southern Tethys. Here, we present information 99
78 marine transgressions, some consisting of limestones, before from two formations that span the Barremian-Albian interval. 100
79 the major worldwide late Cenomanian transgression. The CI Classic taxonomic and physical sedimentological parameters 101
80 has produced rich vertebrate remains from a dozen countries, are presented. 102
81 from Algeria, Morocco to Egypt, and from Sudan to Niger, Since 1912, when L. Pervinquiere first reported fossil 103
82 and especially from Tunisia (Taquet 1976; Broin 1980; vertebrate remains from the Early Cretaceous beds of the 104
83 Bouaziz et al. 1988; Russell 1998; Taquet and Russell 1999; Tataouine region in southern Tunisia (Fig. 1), tens of scien- 105
84 Sereno et al. 1999, 2001; Sereno and Brusatte 2008; Benton et tific expeditions have dealt with the thick sequence of rocks 106
85 al. 2000; Duffin 2001; Smith et al. 2001; Smith and Dalla termed the Continental Intercalaire by Kilian in 1931. This 107

86 Vecchia 2006; Le Loeuff et al. 2010; Smith et al. 2010; Cavin alternation of Late Jurassic–Early Cretaceous shallow- 108
87 et al. 2010). Hitherto, the sedimentary interpretation of many marine, littoral, and non-marine deposits extends over much 109

88 of the important Formations of the CI (Bou Hedma and Sidi of northern Africa, from Algeria to Egypt and from Sudan to 110

89 Aïch; Fig. 2) or their equivalent in the Tataouine Basin “the Niger (Bouaziz et al. 1988; Lefranc and Guiraud 1990; 111
90 Boulouha and Douiret Formations” (Bodin et al. 2010), has Zarbout et al. 1994; Benton et al. 2000; Courel et al. 2003; 112

91 been disputed, whether they were entirely non-marine or Anderson et al. 2007; Khalifa and Catuneanu 2008; Cavin et 113
92 partially or fully marine. Geologists have cited evidence from al. 2010). The aim of this study is to reconstruct the palae- 114
93 sedimentary structures and fossils, but many of these are oenvironmental evolution of a tropical southern Tethys
D 115

Q4 Fig. 2 a Representative stratigraphic sections in J. Zemlet El Beida Tunisia showing the proposed litho- and chrono-stratigraphic subdivi-
(Gabes Basin) and schematic diagram showing a transition from pre- sion of the “Continental Intercalaire” in Tataouine Basin (Bodin et al.
dominantly arid to predominantly humid conditions, b stratigraphic 2010)
nomenclature for the Upper Jurassic–Upper Cretaceous of southern
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116 carbonate-gypsum-sandstone platform margin in the Gafsa in southern Tunisia. Most of these groups are concentrated 166
117 area (site 1—Fig. 1), in the Gabes area (site 2—Fig. 1), and in areas of Mediterranean climates that resemble “refugia”. 167
118 in the Tataouine area (site 3—Fig. 1) southern Tunisia, by Fossiliferous bed of dolomite (≈0.5 m thick, rich of 168
119 using detailed lithology and sedimentology analyses as bioturbation, and the trace of dinosaur; Fig. 3a) belong to 169
120 well as climatology and palaentology. Also, to interpret the Bou Hedma/Boulouha Formation (≈700 m thick); be- 170
121 paleoenvironmental implications of the fossils traces. cause the conservation of these traces require a vadose 171
122 These fossils represent one of the best insights into substratum influenced by a wetland. The dolomite level 172
123 the real conditions to one of the warmest intervals in represented by marine (Sebkha type) influenced by lacus- 173
124 Earth history. trine terrigenous and coal-bearing deposits: conglomerates, 174
sands, sandstones, silts, siltstones, coaly siltstones, and coals 175
(≈5 m thick). The depositional cyclicity bands of silt– 176
125 Geographical and geological setting carbonate–gypsum (Fig. 2) occur here and there, and 177
fossilized logs are invested with gypsum (Bou Hedma/ 178
126 The study area is located in the central and southern Atlas of Boulouha Formation: probably Barremian-Aptian). This 179
Tunisia, about “100–200 km” at flight bird south of a large

127 variation of facies shows the transition from predomi- 180
128 island (Kasserine Island “Tunisian Atlas”; Fig. 1). This zone nantly arid to humid climates (Fig. 2). 181

129 is characterized by E-W and NW-SE-oriented faults, and The Sidi Aïch Formation (≈250 m thick), which is prob- 182

130 ranges of NE-SW trending anticlines, separated by large ably Aptian-Albian in age, was deposited in central and 183
131 synclinal basins (Ahmadi et al. 2006; Hamed et al. 2010a). southern Tunisia. It is composed of varicolored siliciclastic 184

132 In southern Tunisia, Late Cretaceous sedimentation includes rocks, mainly coarse- to fine-grained sandstones with alter- 185
133 fluvio-deltaic sandstones, marly sandstones, gypsum, and nation of siltstone beds, clay lenses, and dolomitic levels. 186
134 carbonates. The lower part of the Late Cretaceous succes- The study area is characterized by outcrops of Triassic to
D 187
135 sion constitutes a large scale, prograding mega sequence Quaternary aged sediments (Fig. 1). Previous geological 188
136 189
which grades laterally into a deeper-water marly facies studies have concentrated on Eocene outcrops, famous for
137 towards the north (M’Rabet 1987; Hamed 2009a; Hamed their phosphate deposits (Metlaoui Groupe). However, little 190
138 et al. 2010b). On the scale of the study area, the Late is known about the Aptian rocks. The Sidi Aïch Formation 191

139 Cretaceous formations outcrop mainly along the range of exhibits other sedimentary features such as cross-bedded 192
140 the so called north–south axis, and in the mountains situated quartz arenite layers which are predominant in the Orbata 193
141 in the mining Gafsa area (J. Bouramli), in Gabes area (J. Formation. The cross-bedding suggests deposition by drain- 194

142 Zemlet El Beida) and Tataouine basin (Dahar; Fig. 1). We age network (wadies) into a shallow tidal zone. The sandy 195

143 sampled two localities from the Bou Hedma/Boulouha and facies in this area includes sparse pebbles, rarely concen- 196
144 the Sidi Aïch/Douiret Formations. Here, intercalations of trated in conglomeratic beds, or lenses (Gallala et al. 2009; 197

145 fine sand, marl, dolomite, and gypsum are overlain by a Aloui 2010). In southern Tunisia, the Sidi Aïch Formation 198

146 thick bed of green clay. The vertebrate remains are pre- crops out at many topographic highs from south of the 199
147 served at the top of Bou Hedma/Boulouha unit, especially Chotts to Touila and Trozza Mountains. In particular, the 200

148 in the carbonate level, where abundant reptile “Dinosaurs” Sidi Aïch Formation is exposed at Tebbaga of Kebili 201

149 fossils were obtained from the Gabes, Tataouine, and from “Dahar”, Zemlet El Beïda, Bou Ramli, Ben Younes, 202
150 the Gafsa basins (Fig. 3a–d). These traces provide additional Orbata, Chemsi, Sidi Aïch, Majoura, Meloussi, Bouhedma, 203
151 information to understand ancient continental, and also pro- and Boudinar Mountains. 204
152 vide a glimpse of dinosaur and others reptile habitats. These Concerning Douiret Formation, it consists of approxi- 205
153 traces indicate that the food regime of these reptiles is mately 100 m of interbedded sandstones and greenish clays, 206
154 probably marine (carnivorous dinosaurs) and non-marine with frequent intercalation of dolomitic beds. Thus, in the 207
155 (herbivorous dinosaurs). Dinosaur remains are represented literature the formation has been informally divided in two 208
156 by a single, poorly preserved tooth and some bones in lithological members: the Douiret sands, rich in vertebrate 209
157 Douiret Formation. The bone-bearing units are conglomer- remains as well as pollens and megaplants, and the Douiret 210
158 atic with clasts set in a poorly sorted coarse sand or gravel clays which are essentially barren of fossils with the excep- 211
159 matrix (Fig. 4). Srarfi et al. (2004) also reports a tion of dolomitic, tabular beds showing a typical lumachella 212
160 Carcharodontosaurus sp. tooth and fragmentary postcranial fabric. Bouaziz et al. (1998) also reported the occurrence of 213
161 remains from an undetermined layer at the El Gazel locality rare marine ostracods. The lower boundary of this unit is a 214
162 (Tataouine Basin). Also crocodylian and turtles remains, and regional, erosive unconformity that juxtaposes fine-grained, 215
163 in particular teeth and osteoderms are very abundant in the lagoonal to shallow-marine deposits of the Boulouha 216
Q5164 Southern Tunisia (Federico et al. 2010). Therefore, there is Formation with a coarse, fossil-rich conglomerate that marks 217
165 possibility of carnivore reptiles and/or herbivorous reptiles the base of the Douiret Formation (Fig. 4). Measurements of 218
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Fig. 3 a Dinosaur tracks on

marginal lake deposits in the
Bou Hedma Formation (site 2-
Gabes Basin), b dinosaur track
and the bioturbation in the Bou
Hedma Formation in Gabes
Basin (scale bar is 50 cm), c
reptile tracks on marginal lake
deposits in the Bou Hedma
Formation in Gafsa Basin (scale
bar is 50 cm; site 1), and d
reptile tracks in the Boulouha
Formation in Tataouine Basin
(scale bar is 50 cm; site 3)
“subparallel sauropod track-
ways on marginal lake

219 ripples indicate unidirectional currents from the Northwest The granulometry of the Sidi Aïch/Douiret Formation. 230
220 (Algerian and Tunisian Atlas; Figs. 5 and 6); deposition of The grain size distribution in sediments of this Formation 231

221 distal facies took place under quiet conditions. The presence was calculated using the Folk and Ward (1957) method. The 232
222 of Skolithos burrows suggest that associated facies were de- mean grain size varies between 1.8 and 1.2 Ø and between 233
223 posited in a shallow intertidal coastal marine environment 2.5 and 3.9 Ø for the proximal facies (Orbata) and distal 234

224 (Selley 1996). The depositional environments grade from facies of the mining Gafsa Basin, respectively, indicating 235

225 alluvial deposits near sources (Hoggar shield) in southern that the sediments are of medium to fine sand grade. The 236
226 Algeria and paleohighs, fluvial to lacustrine in both Central sorting varied from 0.5 to 0.8 Ø for proximal facies and 237

227 Tunisia and Central Algeria with a gradually increase in from 0.5 to 1.8 Ø for distal facies. This could be attributed to 238

228 deltaic influence towards the former, to marine deposits to- lower energy conditions prevailing in the Sidi Aïch envi- 239
229 wards troughs in the north (Fig. 7). ronment (Gallala et al. 2009). Moreover, Sidi Aïch sand- 240

stones are composed largely of quartz, feldspars with minor 241


proportions of kaolinite or illite. The clay minerals occur 242

either as a matrix to the immature sands or as abundant 243
intercalated shale beds. 244

Palaeobotanic framework 245

Early Jurassic compression floras were recorded in Morocco, 246

Algeria, and Libya as well as in Tunisia. These Early Jurassic 247
floras are pure Mesophytic floras, with dominant conifers 248
fossils. The fossils wood (Figs. 6 and 8) from the study area 249
(Fig. 9a and b) are enriched by specimens contain preserved 250
pith, without preserved cortexes are corresponding to fossils 251
wood, probably assigned to the coniferous species. In the 252
absence of well-preserved diagnostic structures, the woods 253
Fig. 4 Dinosaur bone (teeth and limbs) intercalated in conglomeratic were classified in a xylotype based on Page’s method 254
and sand matrix (Tataouine basin) (Page 1979, 1980, 1981). These allochthonous and/or 255
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Aïch Formation, this Aptian-Albian North African climate 273

was also probably humid. To explain this high precipitation, 274
the mildness of the winters and the fact that the sum- 275
mers were not unduly hot in the middle-Late Cretaceous, it 276
has been suggested that the northern high latitude climate was 277
strongly influenced by a warm Atlantic Ocean and 278
Mediterranean Sea (Hamed et al. 2010b; Hamed 2011, 279
Hamed et al. 2012). This would have damped seasonal tem- 280
perature oscillations, contributing little to summer warmth or 281
even lowering the summer temperature. This idea of a largely 282
frost-free winter is corroborated by lack of any glacial 283
or ice-marine deposits in the Cretaceous of high lati- 284
tudes of Siberia, Europe, Asia, and Alaska (Chumakov 285
et al. 1995; Zharkov et al. 1995). 286

It would appear that herbaceous or low-stature vegetation 287
composed largely of primitive angiosperms provided a ma- 288

Fig. 5 Photography of ripples indicate unidirectional currents from the
SW to NE (Tataouine basin—site 3—Fig. 1) jor source of food for a dinosaurian assemblage in which 289

comprised a very important component. Probably the body 290
256 size often reflects the abundance of fodder. Thus the large 291

autochthonous woods assemblages were associated with
257 massive sandstone beds, which were interpreted as flu- size of freshwater fishes and the small size of the dominant 292
258 idized mass deposits. terrestrial herbivores could be taken as evidence of the 293
259 The phylogenetic position of woods placed in that group generally higher productivity of freshwater bodies and
D 294
260 is not yet understood, but has been considered by some lower productivity of terrestrial environments in the mid- 295
261 authors as a basal and extinct branch of the Coniferales. A Cretaceous Sahara relative to those in well-studied Late
262 few years earlier, Tunisian paleobotanist such as Ben Ismail Jurassic environments. 297
263 (1991); Ouaja (2003), and Srarfi (2006) had recognized that

264 the Cretaceous floras of southern Tunisia, discovered in the

265 Tataouine region, were similar to those of the tropics today Palaeoclimate regime during the Early Cretaceous 298
266 and recognized that the Arctic had been much warmer. This

267 tends to give cooler temperature estimates in many situa- A description of new wood specimens from southern 299

268 tions because of the effect of the vegetation creating a local Tunisia essentially confirms the results of Ben Ismail 300
269 (1991); Barale et al. (1998); Barale and Ouaja (2001, 301

microclimate. However, presence of conifers (possibly

270 Brachyphyllum) and/or Angiosperms fossils probably 2002); Ouaja et al. (2004); Srarfi et al. (2004); Srarfi 302

271 reflects a warm and essentially frost-free climate. Judging (2006), and Hamed (2009a) in the southern of Tunisia 303
(Gafsa Basin and Tataouine region) suggested that the very 304

272 from abundant coals and coaliferous deposits in the Sidi

preservation of silicified wood in a continental deposit (Sidi 305

Aïch/Douiret Formation) such as the one we describe here 306

suggests a humid climate, and corroborates the hypoth- 307
esis that the Mesozoic was considerably anisothermal 308
than the present. After the opening of the Atlantic 309
Ocean, the Tunisian continental margin was subject to 310
deposition of sediments eroded from continental areas 311
and transported to the coastal areas by fluvial systems. 312
In the Gafsa–Gabes–Tataouine Basin, Aptian sediments 313
mark the transition from continental to marine transgres- 314
sive environments. This basin was influenced by eustat- 315
ic oscillations correlated to the glacial–interglacial 316
cycles, represented by facies changes and fossil assemb- 317
lages. The sediments that constitute these systems are 318
essentially terrigenous sicliciclastic, well-selected, and 319
mature, with fractions of organic matter, biogenic car- 320
Fig. 6 Photography of the fossils wood indicate unidirectional cur- bonate, and diagenetic clays, with some expressive con- 321
rents from the SW to NE from Tataouine basin centrations of heavy minerals. 322
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Fig. 7 Schematic conceptual

model showing the meth-
odology of palaeosedimentation
of wood fossils in the southern

323 In North Africa the Late Cretaceous climate shuttled vegetation cover during transitions from predominantly arid 333

324 between arid and humid regimes (Hallam 1985; Price to humid climate conditions, leading to a decrease in atmo- 334
325 1999). These dynamic changes in overall climate were in- spheric pCO2, and periods of intensified volcanic activity, 335
326 duced by changes in the global energy household of the leading to an increase in atmospheric pCO2. Other mecha- 336
327 Earth, which modulates evaporation processes in general.
nisms include changes in the oceanic carbon household and 337
328 Long-term changes in the global energy balance are related related to this the capacity of oceans to sequester atmospher- 338
329 to changes in greenhouse conditions, which again are de- ic CO2 (e.g., Liu et al. 2010; Donnadieu et al. 2011). 339
330 pendent on CO2 flux rates. Changes in CO2 flux rates are Changes in greenhouse conditions and associated changes 340

331 induced by a number of processes, such as changes in in radiative forcing may not only result in changes in global 341
332 biogeochemical weathering rates and the buildup of temperatures, but also in evaporation rates and latent heat 342

Fig. 8 The fossils wood from


Gafsa Basin (J. Bouramli—site

1—Fig. 1)
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a to more precipitation, but probably also to more intense 364

monsoonal activity in tropical and subtropical belts, as al- 365
ready proposed for certain periods of increased laminated 366
and organic-rich mud rock “LOM” deposition (e.g., the late 367
Aptian–early Albian; Herrle et al. 2004; Browning and 368
Watkins 2008). Intense precipitation and monsoonal activity 369
on one side, and reinforced upwelling on the other side 370
induce a rather irregular distribution of heat on Earth, which 371
may also strongly vary on seasonal or longer time scales. 372
For example, the southern Tunisia is among the areas af- 373
fected by strong precipitation (≥1,000 mm/year) and mon- 374
soonal activity may effectively become colder during (≈10 ° 375
C) the rainy season, because of the presence of dense cloud 376
cover and the regional loss of energy by evapo-transpiration 377

b and latent heat transfer. 378
Changing from predominantly arid to humid climates in a 379

largely ice-free world produces larger changes in the global 380

water household in that a net transfer of moisture from 381
oceans to continents may occur (Hay and Leslie 1990; 382

Jacobs and Sahagian 1993; Kallel et al. 1997). Presently, 383
approximately a third to one half of all freshwater stored on 384
the continent (total amount 10–15×106 km3) is present as
D 385
groundwater, the rest being locked up in ice (Berner and 386
Berner 1996; Schlesinger 1997). In changing from arid to
humid periods, internally drained basins, which were previ- 388
ously dried out by intense evapo-transpiration, may be 389

replenished with water, associated groundwater reservoirs 390

may be refilled, and larger continental lakes/Chott or 391
Sebkha or Garrât may be formed as such (Djerid, El 392

Fig. 9 a Photography of J. Bouramli area in Gafsa basin, b photogra- Gharssa Fedjej and El Guettar Chotts, El Hamma Sebkha, 393

phy of Dahar area in Tataouine basin Douza, and Sidi Aïch Garrât; Fig. 1). “Chott” is a North 394
African term for a salt flat within a hydrologically closed 395

343 transfer (IPCC 2007). Presently, approximately 25 % of the basin (Gautier 1953), and the elevation of a Chott surface is 396

344 total amount of solar energy received in the lower atmo- controlled by the position of the water table and associated 397
345 sphere is used by evaporation and latent heat transfer capillary fringe. A 30 % increase in the present-day ground- 398

346 (Berner and Berner 1996). Since the water-holding capacity water volume would lead to a sea-level drop by approxi- 399

347 of the atmosphere increases with temperature, it is probable mately 5–7 m, using the assumption that the extraction of 400
348 that intensified greenhouse conditions led to a generally 360,000 km3 of ocean water would produce a sea-level drop 401
349 more humid Earth during the Late Cretaceous, by analogy by 1 m (IPCC 2007). 402
350 to predictions for the today’s world (e.g., Roderick and A further complication may come from the increased 403
351 Farquhar 2004; IPCC 2007). A generally humid climate influx of freshwater and the formation of freshwater lids 404
352 accompanied by intensified precipitation is, for example, during times of increased humidity. This mechanism may 405
353 suggested for the Aptian and Albian base on δ18O signatures lead to more negative δ18O values in general and negative 406
354 of pedogenic carbonates (800 mm/year higher than modern δ18O excursions superimposed on longer-term positive 407
355 precipitation rates; Suarez et al. 2011). records (Erbacher et al. 2001). Higher atmospheric CO2 408
356 To this comes atmospheric circulation, which may be- levels may induce lower pH values in ocean surface waters 409
357 come more vigorous as well, resulting, for example, in (ocean acidification; e.g., Kleypas et al. 1999; Orr et al. 410
358 higher tropical cyclone activity (Barron and Washington 2005). Ocean acidification has, for example, been proposed 411
359 1985; IPCC 2007). Since atmospheric and ocean surface as an important feature of world’s oceans during the early 412
360 circulation are closely tied, wind-driven ocean-surface cur- Aptian Episode (e.g., Erba et al. 2010). Zeebe (2001) dem- 413
361 rent systems may change and become stronger as well (Hay onstrated that changes in pH levels directly affect the δ18O 414
362 2008, 2009, 2011). One consequence is that during the Late composition of planktonic foraminifera, in that lower pH 415
363 Cretaceous, reinforced greenhouse conditions led not only levels induce heavier δ18O values (approximately 0.7–0.8 416
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417 per mile per 0.5 pH change in the range of pH values of 7.5– dry seasons. The rainy periods favored the proliferation of 441
418 9; Zeebe 2001). On the other hand, negative δ18O excur- vegetation and the local development of forests and contrib- 442
419 sions are not necessarily only related to climate warming, ute to the erosion of siliciclastic sediments and their trans- 443
420 but may also be an expression of the presence of freshwater port from paleohighs (Hoggar and Atlas) to deep basin in 444
421 lids in proximal basins (Fig. 10). the North. The dry seasons, however, correspond to the 445
422 Intense precipitation and monsoonal activity on one side, deposit of evaporates (Maknassy, Gafsa, and Tataouine 446
423 and reinforced upwelling on the other side induce a rather Basins…) and carbonates, and the ferrigination of emerged 447
424 irregular distribution of heat on Earth, which may also sediments. After the previous studies of the composition of 448
425 strongly vary on seasonal or longer time scales. For exam- the water molecule (D18OH2O and D2HH2O) and of the 449
426 ple, areas affected by strong precipitation and monsoonal analysis of the noble gases (Moulla et al. 2002; Guendouz 450
427 activity may effectively become colder during the rainy et al. 1997), have shown that the recharge palaeo-altitude of 451
428 season, because of the presence of dense cloud cover and the CI reservoir’s water is greater than 3,000 m. which 452
429 the regional loss of energy by evapo-transpiration and latent coincides probably with the palaeo-altitude of Hoggar. The 453
430 heat transfer. Also areas of vigorous coastal upwelling may conclusion is that the palaeontological data are in conformi- 454

431 develop La Niña-type climatic conditions, which are colder ty with isotopic data of CI aquifer system. 455
432 and more arid. The consequence of these scenarios is that in

433 an essentially ice-free world such as during the Early

434 Cretaceous, reinforced greenhouse conditions may have Can humans force a return to the Barremian-Albian 456
435 resulted in the formation of larger humid climate belts and climate? 457

436 zones and also more vigorous upwelling, which is important
437 in oceanic nutrient households. In such worlds, heat and The modern pole-to-equator sea-level temperature differ- 458
438 cold were very unevenly spread, owing to the regional D ence is about 40 °C; that of the Late Cretaceous ranged 459
439 character of monsoonal zones and upwelling centers. The from 35 °C to as little as 10 °C, implying a much more 460
440 461
palaeoclimate was semi-arid to arid with alternate wet and equable climate (Alabushev and Wiedmann 1994). This

Fig. 10 Schematic representation of two different climate models in the Late Cretaceous. a Diagram with arid climate conditions and b diagram
with humid climate conditions
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462 may have been caused by (1) reduction of the ice of the Conclusions 515
463 Polar Regions, (2) increased atmospheric greenhouse gas
464 concentrations, (3) replacement of freely transpiring C3 Here we describe a new locality of palaeofora wood of a 516
465 plants by water-conserving C4 plants, and (4) mining of conifer and the palaeofauna (reptile fossil “dinosaurs”) from 517
466 minerals with concomitant release of nutrients and poison- the Continental Intercalaire complex of Upper Jurassic– 518
467 ous metals into the environment (the industrial revolution, Lower Cretaceous of southern Tunisia. The fossil remains 519
468 human activities: human population of the planet, the de- of terrestrial fossils found along the coast of Tunisia were 520
469 velopment of civilization, and the need for increasing food originally preserved in sub-marine (Bou Hedma/Boulouha 521
470 supplies…). The polar ice results in permanent atmospheric Formation) and continental (Sidi Aïch/Douiret Formation) 522
471 highs that stabilize Earth’s wind systems. In turn the stable environments on areas of the continental shelf. Although 523
472 winds drive the ocean currents and determine the location of some large fluvial systems did cut the exposed continental 524
473 the frontal systems that separate the low- and high-latitude shelf during sea-level low stands, there is probably a good 525
474 oceanic gyre systems and bound the region where water correlation between the presence of paleo-fluvial channels 526
475 sinks into the ocean interior as thermocline and intermediate and terrestrial vertebrate fossils. The presence of fossils of 527

476 water masses. Increased ocean heat transport can assist in terrestrial fauna and flora opens new perspectives for studies 528
477 making a more equable climate, but unrealistic volume on the paleogeography, paleoclimates, and paleoenviron- 529

478 transports would be required to warm the Polar Regions to ments of the Tunisian continental shelf, not only in southern, 530

479 Cretaceous levels. The major factor forcing the equable but also in Morocco, Algeria, and Libya as well. The nature 531
480 climate of the Cretaceous is now thought to be increased of these fossiliferous concentrations demands a multidisci- 532

481 greenhouse gas concentrations, dominated by CO2. The plinary approach, congregating paleontologists, marine 533
482 modern rate of change in atmospheric concentration is great- geologists, geophysicists, and oceanographers, using differ- 534
483 er than 200 ppmv per century and increasing. This compares ent study techniques such as shallow high-resolution seis-
D 535
484 with 1 ppmv per century during the last deglaciation (e.g., Liu mic profiling, side scan profiling, piston corers, bottom 536
485 537
et al. 2010; Donnadieu et al. 2011). It is likely that Cretaceous trawling, and scuba diving in order to understand the evo-
486 atmospheric CO2 concentrations will last for many thousands lution of the continental shelf. During the Late Berriasian- 538
487 to tens of thousands of years. In addition to increased atmo- Upper Aptian, a northeast–southwest rift system extended 539

488 spheric greenhouse gas concentrations, a return to climatic from Algeria to Tunisia. Barremian-Aptian deposits are 540
489 conditions resembling those of the Cretaceous would require widespread in outcrops and the subsurface throughout 541
490 ice-free poles and large changes in atmospheric and oceanic North Africa (Guiraud et al. 2005). The Late Cretaceous 542

491 circulation. I conclude like the majority of Scientifics that a period provides a good example of how life and the envi- 543

492 return to climatic conditions, resembling those of the mid- ronment may have co-evolved. Evolutionary and extinction 544
493 Cretaceous is not only possible; but also likely unless human- patterns appear largely dependent on the type of climate and 545

494 ity can organize an effective campaign to stop CO2 and other changes there in, and life may have influenced Late 546

495 gas emissions to the atmosphere by a blind and anarchic way Cretaceous climate by modulating organic carbon produc- 547
496 and remove some of the excess CO2 already introduced or an tion and preservation (by oxygen depletion), and carbonate 548

497 upheaval climate of a God miracle. carbon burial. The record of a wood association from fluvial 549

498 The presence of a dense association of allochthonous/ sandstones at the northern portion of the Sahara platform 550
499 autochthonous large fossils woods within a sedimentary (Gafsa–Gabes–Tataouine Basin, Tunisia) at the Late 551
500 sequence characterized by large-scale cross strata, iden- Cretaceous is evidence of some moisture in the paleoenvir- 552
501 tified as a dry system developed within these formations onment. The ecology of these geological period North 553
502 in Gafsa–Gabes–Tataouine Basin, Tunisia, contrasts with African plants reflects their adaptation to this climate. 554
503 the climatic prediction of stratigraphic data and palaeo-
504 wind patterns, which indicate there is no evidence of Acknowledgments This paper was written during a period of field 556
505 moisture enough to have supported forests. Palaeoclimate School students of Earth Sciences. Our sincere thanks go to the 557
506 inferences based on fossil woods analysis are established on University of Gabes for granting the access to these field schools. We 558
507 different latitudes by several authors (Smiley 1967; Douglas also would like to thank our colleagues’ structuralist, paleontologist, 559
and sedimentologist of the Sciences Faculty of Gabes and the Institute 560
508 and Williams 1982; Jefferson 1982; Frakes et al. 1992; of water Sciences and Technology of Gabes for his encouragement 561
509 Chumakov et al. 1995; Scotese 2003). Gérards et al. 2007 during the writing process and these advices following the submission 562
510 confirm Late Cretaceous palaeoclimate in tropical latitudes in this journal. Finally, we gratefully acknowledge the Water, Energy 563
511 utilizing fossil wood analysis in Mons Basin (Belgium), and Environmental Laboratory (Tunisia), University of Engineering 564
and Technology-Taxila (Pakistan), Faculty of Sciences of Marrakech 565
512 characterizing the palaeoclimate by a succession of (Morocco), and University Institute of Applied Geosciences, Section 566
513 marked dry and wet seasons, under unstable palaeoen- Hydrogeology (Germany) without which this contribution would not 567
514 vironmental conditions. have been possible. 569
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AUTHOR'S PROOF! JrnlID 12517_ArtID 804_Proof# 1 - 19/12/2012

Arab J Geosci

833 Sereno P, Beck A, Dutheil D, Larsson H, Lyon G, Moussa B, Sadleir R, Sud-Est de la Tunisie. Implications paléo-biogéographiques. PhD 854
834 Sidor C, Varricchio D, Wilson G, Wilson J (1999) Cretaceous Thesis, University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 855
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836 tion among dinosaurs. Science 286:1342–1347 (2004) Position stratigraphique des niveaux à vertébrés du Més- 857
837 Sereno PC, Larsson HCE, Sidor CA, Gado B (2001) The giant croc- ozoique du Sud-Est de la Tunisie. Notes Serv Géol Tunis 72:5–16 858
838 odyliform Sarcosuchus from the Cretaceous of Africa. Science Suarez MB, Gonzales LA, Ludvigson GA (2011) Quantification of a 859
839 294:1516–1519 greenhouse hydrologic cycle from equatorial to polar latitudes: 860
840 Smiley CJ (1967) Palaeoclimatic interpretations of some Mesozoic the mid-Cretaceous water bearer revisited. Palaeogeogr Palaeocli- 861
841 floral sequences. Bull Am Assoc Petrol Geol 51:849–863 matol Palaeoecol 307:301–312 862
842 Smith JB, Dalla Vecchia F (2006) An abelisaurid (Dinosauria: Ther- Taquet P (1976) Géologie et paléontologie du gisement de Gadoufoua 863
843 opoda) tooth from the Lower Cretaceous Chicla formation of (Aptien du Niger). Cahiers de Paléontologie, 1–191 864
844 Libya. J Afr Earth Sci 46:240–244 Taquet P, Russell D (1999) A massively-constructed iguanodont from 865
845 Smith JB, Lamanna MC, Lacovera KJ, Dodson P, Smith JR, Poole JC, Gadoufaoua, Lower Cretaceous of Niger. Ann Paleontol 85:85–96 866
846 Giegengack R, Attia Y (2001) A giant sauropod dinosaur from an Zarbout M, Souquet P, Peybernes B (1994) Séquences de dépôt dans 867
847 Upper Cretaceous mangrove deposit in Egypt. Science 292:1704– les environnements de transition fluviatile-marin de Crétacé infe- 868
848 1706 rieur de Dahar (Sud-Tunisien). Strata 6:141–142 869
849 Smith J, Lamanna M, Askar A, Bergig K, Tshakreen S, Abugares M, Zeebe RE (2001) Seawater pH and isotopic paleotemperatures of 870
850 Rasmussen D (2010) A large abelisauroid theropod from the Cretaceous oceans. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 871

851 Early Cretaceous of Libya. J Paleontol 84:927–934 170:49–57 872
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853 vironnement des niveaux à vertébrés du Jurassique-Crétacé du mid-Cretaceous period. Stratigr Geol Correl 3(3):216–240 874




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