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Abstract

The Capitan Formation includes the massive "reef" and the bedded forereef slope facies of the Permian Reef Complex (Fig. 1). The ongoing controversy over the nature of the reef has not substantially affected interpretation of the bedded forereef slope portion of the Capitan. Whether the "reef" was a major wave-resistant barrier or not, it shed massive volumes of debris into the 600 m deep Delaware Basin allowing as much as 7 km of lateral progradation during Late Guadalupian time. The forereef talus facies contains allochthonous fragments of both reef and near-back-reef material; much of this detritus dips steeply into the basin (with primary dips of up to 35°) and interfingers at the base of the slope with siltstones of the Bell Canyon Formation. Material was transported downslope by rockfall, debris flow, turbidity current, and other processes, yielding complex large- and small-scale fabrics. In general, sorting is poor and individual beds thin rapidly and get finer-grained in a basinward direction. Locally, small channels filled with sand- to silt-sized siliciclastic material cut through the carbonate strata. These slope channels (carbonate and noncarbonate) and variably sorted sediment packages exerted a strong influence on the early hydrology of the forereef zone.

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