Late Smithian microbial deposits and their lateral marine fossiliferous limestones (Early Triassic, Hurricane Cliffs, Utah, USA)

Abstract

Recurrent microbialite proliferations during the Early Triassic are usually explained by ecological relaxation and abnormal oceanic conditions. Most Early Triassic microbialites are described as single or multiple lithological units without detailed ecological information about lateral and coeval fossiliferous deposits. Exposed rocks along Workman Wash in the Hurricane Cliffs (southwestern Utah, USA) provide an opportunity to reconstruct the spatial relationships of late Smithian microbialites with adjacent and contemporaneous fossiliferous sediments. Microbialites deposited in an intertidal to subtidal interior platform are intercalated between inner tidal flat dolosiltstones and subtidal bioturbated fossiliferous limestones. Facies variations along these fossiliferous deposits and microbialites can be traced laterally over a few hundreds of meters. Preserved organisms reflect a moderately diversified assemblage, contemporaneous to the microbialite formation. The presence of such a fauna, including some stenohaline organisms (echinoderms), indicates that the development of these late Smithian microbial deposits occurred in normal-marine waters as a simple facies belt subject to relative sea-level changes. Based on this case study, the proliferation of microbialites cannot be considered as direct evidence for presumed harsh environmental conditions.

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Acknowledgements

This work is a contribution to the ANR Project AFTER (ANR-13-JS06-0001-01). The CNRS INSU Interrvie, and the French ANR @RAction Grant (Project EvoDevOdonto) also supported this study. D.A. Stephen is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the College of Science and Health at Utah Valley University. Michael Hautmann is thanked for his assistance in bivalve taxonomy and ecology. Our thanks to Marilyne Imbault for her contribution to the ammonoid determination. The Workman Wash area is located on US public land under the stewardship of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of the US Department of the Interior; access to this land is gratefully acknowledged. We would like to thank Wolfgang Kießling and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Olivier, N., Fara, E., Vennin, E. et al. Late Smithian microbial deposits and their lateral marine fossiliferous limestones (Early Triassic, Hurricane Cliffs, Utah, USA). Facies 64, 13 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10347-018-0526-3

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Keywords

  • Early Triassic
  • Late Smithian
  • Microbial deposits
  • Metazoan fauna
  • Lingulids
  • Biotic recovery
  • Depositional environments