Low latitude carbonates in massive and clinoform bedded sheets, termed ramps, occur throughout the Tertiary Tethyan realm, and are characterized by recurring biofacies usually including large foraminifera, rhodolithic algae, coralgal patch-reef and gastropod dominated sequences. All can be interpreted broadly within a standardized Tertiary carbonate ramp model. Biota can be used to define precise palaeobathymetric zones which have a predictive utility in palaeoenvironmental modelling, especially where data are limited.

The carbonate ramp model of earlier authors, has been elaborated by Read (1982) and ramp formation occurs mostly in passive margin and extensional tectonic settings. Ramps are characterized by slope gradients of less than 1 degree and, once established, are conservative to change. Much use has been made of the ramp model for Palaeozoic and Mesozoic lithofacies modelling. In contrast, published work on Cenozoic ramps is limited, however, Tethyan ramps are particularly widespread and extend tens to hundreds of kilometres along strike and occupy tens of kilometres of slope. Many studies have dealt with Cenozoic ramp associations and sequences (e.g. Pedley 1983; Reiss & Hottinger 1984; Purser 1973) and have demonstrated the diversity of biotal and sediment detail, but without ascribing them to a ramp model.

Biota were quick to adapt to the Tertiary environments left vacant after the K–T boundary extinction events. New genera of Foraminifera, Mollusca, Bryozoa and Echinoder-mata rapidly replaced the extinct forms in bursts of innovative opportunism. Codiacean algae, Rhodophyta and marine angiosperms were equally adaptive colonizers of the carbonate platforms. Novel biofacies associations were derived from

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