New observations on the Sicily Messinian Tripoli have yielded a variably thick diatomitic, calcareous and shaly rock interval marked by an upwards disappearance of calcareous and siliceous plankton (barren lithosome), coexisting with a variability in vegetal remains and significant amounts of amorphous organic matter (AOM). Facies analysis associated with biostratigraphy and palaeoecology of the several field and borehole sections has been framed in a well-accepted chronological scheme that points to this barren interval coinciding with the stratigraphic upper and younger part of some Tripoli sections (bituminous Tripoli) located in the northern part of the study area.
Biostratigraphically, the barren lithosome falls within the Non-Distinctive Zone (NDZ) and is generally younger than the First Common Occurrence (FCO) of T. multiloba. The age of its diachronous base appears older than the Messinian salinity crisis (MSC) deposits, because is well constrained by the calcareous plankton biostratigraphic markers along the underlying portions of the Tripoli. The top boundary of the barren rock interval, that is not always identifiable, could be age dated, following the proposed stratigraphic criteria. We infer that the Tripoli initial open-marine environment became, in more inner areas, progressively confined, with freshwater floodings alternating with short marine-water incursions in a shallow-water to continental domain. The collected information appears useful in addressing further exploration.