Field of Science

Triassic Marine Flooding Event Identified by a Vertebrate Bonebed

Reolid, M., Pérez-Valera, F., Benton, M. J., and J. Reolid. 2013. Marine flooding event in continental Triassic facies identified by a nothosaur and placodont bonebed (South Iberian Paleomargin). Facies (early online) DOI 10.1007/s10347-013-0360-6

Abstract - Sudden marine flooding within otherwise continental successions of the Triassic is unusual. The Tabular Cover of the SE paleomargin of the Iberian Massif is characterized by continental Triassic redbed facies composed of sandstones and siltstones, with gypsum-rich levels in the transition to Jurassic limestones. These Triassic deposits were developed in a fluvial-coastal system and they are 300 m thick in the Puente Génave-Villarrodrigo area, eastern Jaén Province, Spain. An unexpected sandstone-limestone unit in the lower part of this formation, recognized over more than 30 km, contains marine reptile bones in a storm bed or tsunami deposit. The lower part of this unit is characterized by a sandstone with sedimentary structures indicative of high-energy conditions as well as by fossil remains of marine reptiles. This bed ranges from 0 to 90 cm in thickness, and in some outcrops pinches out rapidly within a few meters. The upper part of the studied unit is a limestone with common trace fossils and abundant remains of marine reptiles, comprising isolated and fragmented pieces of sauropterygians (nothosaurs, pachypleurosaurs, and placodonts). Most abundant are vertebrae and ribs. In some outcrops, the top of this bed presents a dense accumulation of well-preserved small gastropods. The limestone is overlain by red siltstones and sandstones. The studied unit is interpreted as a marine deposit representing a high-energy event and records exceptional marine flooding in a distal fluvial environment, in fact the only open-marine deposit in the Villarrodrigo section. The sedimentary structures in the lower part of the unit are typical of high-energy deposits and indicate deposition in a single episode, probably related to a storm surge or a tsunami. The fragmentation, disarticulation, and dispersion of the vertebrate bones and the imbrication of bioclasts are consistent with a high-energy event that favored the concentration of bones according to size and density.

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