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Neoproterozoic microbialites in outcrops of the Qarn Alam salt dome, central Oman

Monique Mettraux, Peter Homewood, Said Al Balushi, Marcelle Marques Erthal and Nilo Siguehiko Matsuda
Neoproterozoic microbialites in outcrops of the Qarn Alam salt dome, central Oman
GeoArabia (Manama) (2014) 19 (3): 17-76


Limestones and mixed limestone and dolomite facies from the Neoproterozoic to early Cambrian Ara Group are exposed as blocks and rafts by the surface-piercing Qarn Alam salt dome in central Oman. These limestones and dolomites compose laminite - stromatolite - thrombolite - evaporite shallowing-up successions, and are remarkable in that they contain well-preserved microbial textures and fossils (both calcite and dolomite with very small but significant silicates and other mineral species) as well as pristine syn-depositional to very early diagenetic cements from the first stages of sediment lithification. The facies are described at scales ranging from outcrop (1-100 m) to the SEM (mu m-scale). Outcrop-scale sedimentology and high-resolution stratigraphy are described in detail, and petrographic and geochemical analyses are recorded. The depositional environment is interpreted to have been shallow marine subtidal to intertidal and hypersaline supratidal, with low-energy tidal flats and channels, lagoons or salinas, and continental sabkhas. Both calcitic and dolomitic phases show microbial fossils and structures with fabrics of mineralised extra-cellular polymeric substances (EPS). The occurrence of syn-sedimentary primary dolomitic matrix in thrombolites is interpreted to result from the degradation of a thicker microbial mat, during or after growth, which provided the right micro-environmental conditions for the precipitation of dolomite. A caliche crust and sabkha evaporites (the white band) cap the laminite-thrombolite succession and together with karst breccias, fracture fills and neptunian dykes, record an emersion at the top of each of the depositional units. Stable isotopes of carbon and oxygen of the microbialite to evaporite facies show close values for delta (super 13) C (+2 ppm to +4 ppm) but a broader range of delta (super 18) O (+0.5 ppm to -5 ppm). These values, and their spread recorded within sets of laminae, indicate little to no diagenetic resetting and therefore should be close to original equilibrium values for seawater and early diagenetic fluids. Later diagenetic cements in fractures show entirely different values with delta (super 13) C in the range of -2 ppm to -6 ppm, and delta (super 18) O from -7.5 ppm to -11 ppm. Whereas dolomite shows no post-depositional diagenetic modification and records preservation of finely detailed EPS mineralisation, the calcite of clumps of clots and mesoclots shows neomorphism with reorganisation into crudely fascicular-optic crystals that cut across primary sediment and early diagenetic cement fabrics. Preservation of both sedimentary facies and the fossil record is remarkable for these ca. 540 million year old rocks and indicates that diagenesis had little effect on the microbialites at Qarn Alam.

ISSN: 1025-6059
Serial Title: GeoArabia (Manama)
Serial Volume: 19
Serial Issue: 3
Title: Neoproterozoic microbialites in outcrops of the Qarn Alam salt dome, central Oman
Affiliation: Geosolutions TRD SAS, France
Pages: 17-76
Published: 2014
Text Language: English
Publisher: Gulf Petrolink in Bahrain, Manama, Bahrain
References: 71
Accession Number: 2015-063427
Categories: Sedimentary petrologyStratigraphy
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 3 tables, strat. cols.
N18°00'00" - N24°00'00", E54°00'00" - E59°00'00"
Secondary Affiliation: Petroleum Development Oman, OMN, OmanPetrobras, BRA, Brazil
Country of Publication: Bahrain
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2018, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 201528
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