The widely known Lower Devonian “algal reef ” limestones of the Nubrigyn Formation, New South Wales, are enormous allochthonous blocks contained within a 400-m interval of interbedded mudstones, allodapic carbonates, and megabreccias that form part of a 5,000-m succession of Lower Devonian volcanics and flysch. Previous workers have interpreted these massive limestone bodies to be algal bioherms that developed in sublittoral to littoral environments around volcanic pedestals on a “Nubrigyn shelf.” The allochthonous nature of the limestone bodies is clearly indicated by (1) occurrence of a wide range of clast sizes, as much as 1 km across; (2) presence of a wide range of clast types and sizes in close juxtaposition; (3) discordance between stratigraphic facing of the large limestone bodies and stratification in surrounding beds; (4) lack of distinctive and regular facies changes within the limestone bodies, particularly near their margins; (5) abrupt and random truncation of internal fabrics at block margins; (6) lack of an autochthonous volcanic foundation for the “reefs”; and (7) anomalous lithofacies association of the massive bodies of shoal-water limestone with enclosing flysch.
The limestones initially formed in a shoal-water carbonate complex to the west upon a geologically persistent volcanic archipelago, the Molong Arch, where source rocks for the Nubrigyn megaclasts and megabreccias crop out in the Lower Devonian Garra Formation and Cuga Burga Volcanics. The Nubrigyn megaclasts were transported eastward as debris flows into the adjacent and relatively deep water Hill End Trough after dislodgement from the eastern margin of the Garra shelf. Megaclasts isolated within hemipelagic mudstones and flysch were presumably transported by sliding or rolling. The loci of accumulation of the debris flows and exotic blocks occupy a meridional basin-margin position between the Molong Arch to the west and the predominantly turbidite-filled Hill End Trough to the east.
Other debris-flow megabreccias, many previously unrecognized as having been transported and deposited in this manner, occur in the Paleozoic rocks of the Tasman mobile belt of eastern Australia.