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Abstract

The Sicilian gateway is a narrow, deep, interconnected series of basins, sill valleys and passageways that cuts across the broad, shallow Sicilian–Tunisian Platform in the Central Mediterranean. This deep connection allows dense Levantine Intermediate Water (LIW) formed in the Eastern Mediterranean to flow in a westerly direction through the gateway and exit into the Tyrrhenian and Balearic basins of the Western Mediterranean. LIW is replaced by a strong surface flow of Modified Atlantic Water (MAW). A complex and still active tectonic regime has been an important control on the development of physiography and on the style and distribution of sediments across the Platform.

Within the deep gateway basins, turbidites, debrites and megabeds are intercalated with a background of predominantly muddy and calcareous, hemipelagic and contourite sediments. Evidence for the influence of bottom currents on sedimentation is seen in the construction of small mounded drifts and irregular patch drifts, in zones of scouring and non-deposition, in local photographic evidence of a current-smoothed or rippled seafloor, and as a subtle combination of features present in the background sediments. These include: extensively reworked microfossil assemblages, rare diffuse lamination, coarse lenses of mixed composition within a pervasively bioturbated sediment, and relatively high rates of accumulation.

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