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Early Pliocene transgressive coastal lags (Bajo Segura Basin, Spain): a marker of the flooding after the Messinian salinity crisis
´ ´ ´ Jesus E. Caracuel *, Jesus M. Soria, Alfonso Yebenes
Departamento de Ciencias de la Tierra y del Medio Ambiente, Universidad de Alicante, Apdo. Correos 99, 03080 San Vicente del Raspeig, Alicante, Spain Received 3 May 2004
Abstract The Messinian salinity crisis is recorded on the northern margin of the Bajo Segura Basin by lacustrine and fluvial deposits coeval to the evaporites that precipitated in the basin’s central areas. These syn-evaporitic Messinian deposits are bounded at the top by an erosional surface caused by a fall in base level (end-Messinian unconformity) on which an early Pliocene sequence is located. The latter begins with a coastal lag, consisting of oncoliths and carbonate clasts intensely bored and encrusted by lithobionts, that records the installation of beach environments at the beginning of the Pliocene transgression. A succession of pelagic marls rich in planktonic and benthic foraminifers lies on this basal lag and indicates the complete marine flooding of the basin and the definitive conclusion of the salinity crisis. D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Messinian salinity crisis; Pliocene transgression; Borings; Bajo Segura Basin; Mediterranean
1. Introduction ‘‘Leg 42A drilling confirmed the Leg 13 drilling results that the first Pliocene sediments above the Messinian are deep and open marine hemipelagic sediments. The Messinian salinity crisis was ended by the Pliocene flooding.’’ (Hsu et al., 1977, p. 402). ¨ In most of the Mediterranean marginal basins, the first transgressive Pliocene sediments, marking the definitive postcrisis reflooding, are recorded as presenting clearly marine facies. This is the case in Sicily (Butler et al., 1995), the Apennines (Roveri et al., 2001),
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +34-96590-3400x3337; fax: +3496590-3552. E-mail address: email@example.com (J.E. Caracuel). 0037-0738/$ - see front matter D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2004.05.006
Cyprus (Orszag-Sperber et al., 2000) and in Morocco (Rouchy et al., 2003). In the southern Spain basins, these transgressive deposits are marls rich in planktonic organisms with pelagic affinity, as described in ´ the Malaga (Guerra and Serrano, 2003), Vera (Ott ´ d’Estevou et al., 1990) and in the Nıjar basins (Van de Poel, 1992). In other cases, the transgressive deposits of the earliest Pliocene present shallow marine shelf ´ facies, as in the Fortuna Basin (Garces et al., 1998). It is not usual to find records of coastal sedimentation occurring in the early Pliocene when reflooding began, forming the base of the Pliocene transgressive sequence. In the Melilla Basin in North Africa, evidence has been found that the Pliocene transgression began with an intense boring activity on hard substrata ´ (Rouchy et al., 2003). In the Nıjar – Carboneras Basin
Recent studies (Soria et al. precipitated. consisting of lacustrine limestones and marls. Martınez del Olmo and Serrano ˜ Onate. ´ 1990) rodent fossils (Alfaro et al. the end-Messinian unconformity. The P3 system has not been dated in the study area. 2002. 1995. Its sedimentary filling age ranges from the Tortonian to the Quaternary (Montenat et al. Martın´ Suarez and Freudenthal. According to these authors. We also describe their relation with both the evaporitic phase characterising the Messinian salinity crisis and with the marine sedimentation marking the complete Pliocene reflooding of the Mediterranean. Examined in . conformity.. These are all evidence that the Pliocene transgression began with coastal environments. Both systems contain Upper Turolian or Messinian (biozone MN13. 1996.. fluvial lutites and gravels. The aim of this study is to describe a singular manifestation of coastal sedimentation in the first transgressive deposits of the Pliocene (lags of oncoliths and carbonate clasts. Tortonian II (TII). The Pliocene deposits begin with a coastal depositional system (P0) consisting of bored/ encrusted oncoliths and carbonate clasts. ´ Calvet et al.122 J. The MII Unit is crowned by an erosive surface generated by a baselevel fall at the end of the Messinian (end-Messinian unconformity). Mein. 1990) represents the marine reflooding of the basin. Soria et al. forming the base of a stratigraphically continuous sequence that continues with three other systems: pelagic marls (P1). boring has been described in the unconformity separating the Messinian from the Pliocene (Montenat et al. Depositional system P0—lags of bored/encrusted oncoliths and carbonate clasts Four stratigraphic sections. while Unit P (consisting of Units PI and PII of Montenat et al. where five major stratigraphic units bounded by regional unconformities can be identified: Tortonian I (TI). Stratigraphic and biostratigraphic data of the study area This study centres on the Crevillente– Elche sector. lower). / Sedimentary Geology 169 (2004) 121–128 (Majada del Curica sector). 1. Lancis (1998). On the basis of previous data (Montenat et al. 2000. characteristic of the salinity crisis in the marginal basins of the Mediterranean.. the basal Pliocene deposits are clasts bored together with oysters and serpulids (Montenat et al. where the boundary between the MII (Messinian) and P (early Pliocene) units is clearly exposed (Fig. Finally. studying the calcareous nannoplankton. 2. In addition. The planktonic foraminifers determinations in the P1 system by Montenat et al. 1990) using rodent fossils (Soria et al. 1990). 2). 2003) and other new data provided by the present study. 2002.. 1996). located on the northern margin of the Bajo Segura Basin.. 1998). also obtains the same age (NN13). Pliocene I (PI) and Pliocene II (PII). shallow marine and coastal sands (P2) and alluvial clays and gravels (P3). 2). According to this model. 1990). The MII Unit here is made up of two laterally equivalent depositional systems: MIa. were chosen for the detailed study of the P0 coastal system as the main aim of this study. with incised valley fillings sporadically associated (Unit MIII). in the Bajo Segura Basin. The end-Messinian unconformity is defined by an erosional surface with a palaeovalley morphology which erodes over 30 m of Unit MII.E. 3. 1. General features of the Bajo Segura Basin The Bajo Segura Basin is a Mediterranean marginal basin located in the eastern end of the Betic Cordillera (Fig. Crevillente A. bored and encrusted by lithobionts). Unit MII records the intra-Messinian reflooding. B and C and Elche (Fig. the stratigraphic model of the Bajo Segura Basin has been brought up to date (Fig. Unit MIII records the fluvial sedimentation syngenetic to the end-Messinian un- 4. Mein. the most complete stratigraphic record corresponds to the late Miocene and Pliocene... Caracuel et al. corresponding to the Globorotalia puncticulata biozone. and MIb. its age was determined as early Pliocene (base of the MN15 biozone. 2001.. 2003) have justified the existence of an intraMessinian unconformity dividing the M Unit into two new units: MI and MII. (1990) suggest an early Pliocene age. latemost Tortonian – Messinian (M).. 1990). has been recognised. but in other sectors of the basin. Unit MI corresponds to preevaporitic sedimentation. upper). 1990. when the evaporites..
detail. The concentric laminated structure is clearly visible in the elements smaller than 10 cm.). (A) General sketch of the Western Mediterranean. Regardless of their size. The layer with bored/encrusted oncoliths in the Crevillente A and B sections has a maximum thickness of 7 m and consists of spherical and subspherical ferruginised elements ranging from 1 to 30 cm in diameter. 1. 1990).E. 3). almost all the oncoliths are bored and encrusted only on their external parts. The most common endolithic borings recorded are due to sponges (Cliona sp. which also have a greater variety of colonisers. as well as large (up to 12 cm) Lihophaga sp. A large variety of epilithic lithobionts have also been recognised. (C) Stratigraphic organization of the Bajo Segura Basin (Late Tortonian to early Pliocene). although some instances have a tubular morphology interpreted as plant fragment casts. the endMessinian unconformity separates lacustrine marls (system MIIa) from lags of bored/encrusted oncoliths (system P0) (Fig. with larger sizes of lithobionts coinciding on the larger oncoliths. In the Crevillente A and B sections. with the indication of position of the Betic Cordillera. Caracuel et al. (B) Location of the Bajo Segura Basin in the eastern end of the Betic Cordillera (simplified from Montenat and Ott d’Estevou. These lags are absent in the Crevillente C section where they are replaced by a hard./Petricola sp. The main lithostratigraphic units are indicated as defined by Montenat et al.J. / Sedimentary Geology 169 (2004) 121–128 123 Fig. ferruginised and bored substrate corresponding to lacustrine limestones (system MIIa).) and several boring bivalves (Irus sp. Because they are so small and bad-preserved. on the larger oncoliths. it is hard to recognise the oncolith nuclei. such as Cyrripeda . (1990). this surface shows palaeoreliefs with sharp vertical incisions measuring tens of centimetres. Successive growth phases are occasionally observed with variation in the eccentricity of the external laminae. although the larger ones are usually colonised more on the upper part. whereas those of large diameter have external laminae eccentric to the internal ones. These lithobionts are found all over the surfaces of the oncoliths.
2003) such as the depositional environment of the MIIa system. Magny and Richard. 1984. From an ichnologic point of view. 3).). Polichaeta (Polydora) and calcareous algae (Lithophyllum sp. Ostreidae (colonised on their inner side by serpulids)..to 50-cm-thick layer in which the elements are well-rounded fragments of Mesozoic limestones with a maximum size of 10 cm. the assemblage described corresponds to the coastal ichnofacies of Trypanites (Pemberton et al. / Sedimentary Geology 169 (2004) 121–128 Fig. in this case.124 J. These clasts form a 30. which is characteristic of hard biotic/abiotic substrata. (Upper) Simplified geological map of the northern sector of the Bajo Segura Basin with situation of the studied sections. Magny et al. Caracuel et al. the only hard elements available for colonisation by the lithobionts are the oncoliths.g. 2. There is abundant literature showing that one of the most common environments for oncolith formation are the littoral zones of lakes (e. (including both complete Balanidae and their basal plates). Dixit. 1992).. Vermetidae. 1987. Their surfaces have a ferruginous covering and abundant . the end-Messinian unconformity separates fluvial clays and gravels (system MIIb) from lags of bored carbonate clasts (system P0. Serpulidae. Regarding the origin of the oncoliths. (Lower) Stratigraphic relation of the P0 depositional system (coastal lags of bored clasts) as regards the underlying MIIa (lacustrine – palustrine) and MIIb (fluvial) systems and the overlying P1 system (pelagic basin).E. In the Elche section. we interpret that they come from the underlying lacustrine system (MIIa). mainly inside the borings of Lithophaga. Fig.
the P0 system overlies the erosion surface defining the end-Messinian unconformity and. on the other hand.J. and Elche outcrops and detailed photographs of the lags of bored oncoliths and carbonate clasts of the P0 depositional system (see stratigraphic location in Fig. 2).E. . 3. how this system rapidly evolves upwards into the P1 system (pelagic marine marls). Panoramic views of the Crevillente A. on the one hand. / Sedimentary Geology 169 (2004) 121–128 125 Fig. Note how. Caracuel et al.
This erosional phase is related to a fast fall in base level. 5. 4B). / Sedimentary Geology 169 (2004) 121–128 borings by bivalves (Lithophaga sp. size and morphology with the bored clasts of the P0 system. sporadic fragments of bivalves (pectinids and oysters). together with layers of lacustrine limestones (MIIa) and fluvial gravel channels (MIIb) (Fig. cirripeds and serpulids. as regards the two main events of the Messinian salinity crisis: the evaporitic sedimentation and the Pliocene reflooding. while the oscillatory flow and wave breaking processes rolled the oncoliths and carbonate clasts. The wave effect on the bottom caused winnowing of the fine sediment (lacustrine marls and fluvial clays). as well as encrusted oysters.3.4. As in the Crevillente A and B assemblage. grade upwards rapidly to marine marls of system P1 (early Pliocene). therefore. abiotic substrate.2. 5. can be recognised in association with the bored oncoliths or carbonatic clasts.1. In the transition zone between both systems. form the system MIIb (Fig. This vertical transition of facies reflects a progressive but rapid evolution from coastal (P0) to marine (P1) environments. a trangressive coastal lag. Complete marine flooding The rapid rise in sea level during the early Pliocene caused an increase in bathymetry and. as well as concretions of limonite and highly ferruginised small bivalves and echinoderms. but leaving some near the surface. In all the sections analysed. resulting in the elimination of most of the oncolithic layers formed during deposit of Unit MII. 2). with reference to the significance of the lags of bored oncoliths and carbonate clast.) and sponges (Cliona sp. The P1 system marls are characterised by the presence of planktonic and benthic foraminifers. This flow kept the oncoliths separated from the substratum. Syn-evaporitic continental sedimentation Messinian Unit II (MII) represents lacustrine and fluvial sedimentation in the Crevillente– Elche sector. as well as benthic foraminifers. 4C). Communities of coastal organisms colonised the lags and hard strata. The marls and limestones that provide the lithological character of most of the system MIIa were deposited in the other parts of the lake and neighbouring swampy areas. 4A). 5. End-Messinian unconformity The upper limit of Unit MII is defined by an erosional surface (end-Messinian unconformity) on which the first Pliocene deposits lie. this one corresponds to a coastal ichnofacies of Trypanites developed on a hard. allowing the development of spherical morphologies with concentric laminae (similar conclusions were presented by Dixit. coeval to the precipitation of the evaporites in the central parts of the Bajo Segura Basin (see Fig. is related to a sea-level rise and the subsequent occupation of the area studied by beach (shoreface) environments. The genesis of the oncoliths under study is related to . The absence of traces of organic activity on the soft coastal substratum can be explained by the predominance of erosive wave processes at the beginning of the Pliocene transgression (Fig. Caracuel et al. accumulated in the fluvial channels. there are thin levels of sand with wave ripples and small-scale hummocky cross-stratification (Crevillente C section). 1984 at Lake Manyara in East Africa). These lags of bored oncoliths and clasts. encouraging both the concentration of coarse-grained clasts (lags of oncolith and carbonate clasts) and the exposure of hard substrata on the bottom (lacustrine limestone). The origin of the Mesozoic carbonate clasts in the Elche profile is interpreted from the channels of fluvial gravels recognised in the underlying MIIb system which coincide in lithology. Conclusions: evolutionary model We now summarise the main stages in the sedimentary evolution of the northern margin of the Bajo Segura Basin. the oscillatory flow of shallow water in the littoral zones of the lacustrine areas (system MIIa). echinoderms and gastropods. which. dominated by the carbonatic clasts studied in this paper. The carbonate clasts thus constitute a set of benthic islands colonised by coastal lithobionts. Start of Pliocene transgression The genesis of system P0. together with the floodplain lutites.).E. forming a pavement of unassociated elements.126 J. 5. Lags of gravels. 5. making up the P0 system.
/ Sedimentary Geology 169 (2004) 121–128 127 Fig. (A – D) Evolutionary model explaining the genesis of the bored oncoliths and carbonate clasts (P0: trangressive coastal lags). see Fig. .J. Relation of both the Messinian syn-evaporitic sedimentation (MII Unit. 4. 2) and the complete marine flooding of the early Pliocene (P1: pelagic marls).E. Caracuel et al.
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