Tiny Fossils, Big Impact: The Role of Foraminifera-Enriched Condensed Section in Arresting the Movement of a Large Retrogressive Submarine Landslide in the Gulf of Mexico

Abstract

A 3.4-m thick condensed section enriched in foraminifera formed the final detachment horizon of a retrogressive submarine landslide, in the Ursa Basin, northern Gulf of Mexico. The high concentration of foraminifera produces a high porosity (up to five porosity units) layer distinct from the background clay. Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 308 Site U1324 cored and logged this layer. We conducted a sedimentological analysis on 31 samples across this zone and the overlying and underlying background clay. CT images show that foraminifera are individuals dispersed within the clay, unbroken, and have retained a significant amount of intraskeletal void space. The assemblage is expected for this time interval in the Late Pleistocene (~24 kya). We interpret the layer is a result of a pause in terrigenous sedimentation. The condensed section was a preferred detachment horizon but only minimal sliding occurred before further movement ceased. One possible mechanism to explain this is the presence of foraminifera results in a dilational shear strengthening behavior, which arrested movement. Further work will be required to test this, however. On a broader scale, condensed sections with abundant microfossils, may play a key role in landslide mechanics because they can alter the shearing properties of the background material.

Keywords

Ursa Basin Retrogressive Slip zone Microfossils Expedition 308 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth SciencesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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