Abstract

Unbioturbated mudstones and highly bioturbated silty and sandy mudstones from the late Albian of Alberta, Canada, are characterized by their ichnological, foraminiferal, and geochemical signatures. A comparison of these data sets is undertaken to isolate the dissolved oxygen (DO) conditions that led to the preservation of unbioturbated mudstones versus highly bioturbated silty and sandy mudstones. Highly diverse and abundant benthic foraminiferal assemblages, coupled with conclusive geochemical signatures, indicate that unbioturbated mudstones were deposited under oxic bottom waters. The paucity of bioturbation in these rocks is attributed to the persistence of low-oxic conditions (5 > DO > 2 mg L–1) at the seafloor, comparable to the present-day Gulf of Mexico. We assert that unbioturbated mudstone should not automatically be attributed to oxygen deficiency (<2 mg L–1). Instead, it may reflect oxygenation sufficient to support benthic microfauna (foraminifera) but insufficient to sustain a diverse ecosystem of macrofauna (burrowing fauna). Moreover, we propose that the distribution of unburrowed mudstones deposited below low-oxic waters is predictable. A paucity of bioturbation is normal in shallow marine (below fair-weather wave base to ∼200 m water depth) deposits of subtropical to tropical ocean basins and/or semienclosed seaways.

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