Abstract

The Fish River Subgroup of the Nama Group, southern Namibia, is restudied in terms of lithostratigraphy and depositional environment. The study is based on partly fine-scaled sections, particularly of the Nababis and Gross Aub Formation. The results are generally in accordance with earlier studies. However, braided river deposits appear to be less widely distributed in the studied area, and a considerable part of the formations of the middle and upper subgroup apparently were deposited under shallowest marine conditions including upper shore-face. Evidence comes partly from sedimentary features and facies distribution, and partly from trace fossils, particularly Skolithos and the characteristic Trichophycus pedum. Environmental conditions represented by layers with T. pedum suggest that the producer favoured shallow marine habitats and transgressive regimes. The successions represent two deepening-upward sequences, both starting as fluvial (braided river) systems and ending as shallow marine tidally dominated environments. The first sequence includes the traditional Stockdale, Breckhorn and lower Nababis formations (Zamnarib Member). The second sequence includes the upper Nababis (Haribes Member) and Gross Aub formations. As a result, the Nababis and Gross Aub formations require emendation: a new formation including the Haribes and Rosenhof and possibly also the Deurstamp members. In addition, four distinct sequence stratigraphic units are determinable for the Fish River Subgroup in the southern part of the basin. The Proterozoic–Cambrian transition in southern Namibia is most probably located as low as the middle Schwarzrand Subgroup. The environmentally controlled occurrence of Trichophycus pedum undermines the local stratigraphic significance of this trace fossil which is eponymous with the lowest Cambrian and Phanerozoic trace fossil assemblage on a global scale. However, occurrences of such trace fossils have to be regarded as positive evidence for Phanerozoic age regardless of co-occurring body fossils. Other suggestions strongly dispute the concept of the formal Proterozoic–Cambrian and Precambrian–Phanerozoic boundary. Carbon isotope excursions and radiometric datings for the Nama Group do not help to calibrate precisely the temporal extent of the Fish River Subgroup. Fossil content, sequence stratigraphy and inferred depositional developments suggest that this subgroup represents only a short period of late orogenic molasse sedimentation during the early sub-trilobitic Early Cambrian.

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