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ABSTRACT

Breccias affecting the pelagic Lower Cretaceous Maiolica limestone of the Umbria-Marche Apennines of central Italy contain 10-cm-diameter to submillimeter angular clasts of white pelagic limestone and black chert, separated by a filling of sparry calcite. The clasts can often be seen to have originally fitted together, indicating extension without shear, and this is the case in all three dimensions, arguing for roughly isotropic volumetric expansion. Breccia fragments are separated by sparry calcite bodies comparable in width to the fragments; this shows that the breccias were not formed by collapse, or by a single large explosion, after either of which the fragments would surely have fallen to the bottom of the cavity, but probably by multiple small expansion events, each followed by calcite deposition in the small voids that opened up. The breccia sometimes occurs in dramatic topographic walls, a few tens of meters in both width and height, although there is not a one-to-one correspondence between breccia and walls. The sparry-calcite fill indicates that water with dissolved CO2 was involved in formation of the breccias, presumably providing the high fluid pressure that forced the fragments apart. The breccia is bounded stratigraphically above by the middle Cretaceous Marne a Fucoidi (Fucoid marls), which appears to represent an aquiclude that limited the volume of high fluid pressure (PF). Although the mechanism of formation of the expansion breccias is not yet clear, we list observations that need to be accounted for by such a mechanism and discuss how these observations might be explained.

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