The Gambier Limestone, a bryozoan-rich, cool-water carbonate of Late Eocene to Early Miocene age in the Otway basin of southeastern Australia, is about one-third variably dolomitized limestone and dolostone. Individual dolomite crystals range from 10 to 500 μm and are of three types: (1) silt-size crystals (4-64 μm diameters) having a brightly luminescent core (10-20 μm) of nearly stoichiometric dolomite with ∼ 1 mol% MnCO3 and SiO2 but no Fe, surrounded by a thin, dull or alternating dark and bright CL cortex that is nonstoichiometric with 44-46 mol % MgCO3 but sharp to diffuse zoning in Mn and Fe, (2) sand-size crystals, which also have a brightly luminescent and stoichiometric core and dark and bright non-stoichiometric thin inner cortex, but are mostly a thick outer cortex (at ca. > 50 μm diameter) that is nonluminescent and nonstoichiometric with some Fe but no Mn, and (3) identical sand-size crystals with a variably leached core and inner cortex that is either a void or a void filled with late calcite cement.
These three crystal populations represent two distinct dolomites and their alteration product. The smallest of the silt-size crystals, which are rarely preserved, are also the cores of the larger crystals upon which grew an inner and outer cortex of somewhat different composition. The δ18O values of dolomite rhombs (−1.6 to 2.9 ‰) correlate positively with δ13C values (0.7 to 3.0‰), with the lowest values from silt-size or small sand-size crystals and the highest values from large sand-size crystals with leached, unfilled cores. Low and variable δ18O and δ13C values in conjunction with high and variable Mn and Fe contents in both the core and inner cortex of all crystals are consistent with formation from a mixture of brackish water and seawater. Higher values for the outer cortex in sand-size crystals are typical of those expected for precipitation from normal or near-normal seawater. Low Sr, Mn, and Fe contents in the largest crystals, in conjunction with fluid inclusions of seawater salinity in the outer cortex, are also consistent with the bulk of the large crystals having precipitated from seawater. Using the Sr-isotope evolution curve for Cenozoic seawater, Sr-isotope ratios of the dolomites can be divided into four distinct groups, which correspond to times of major transgressions. This Cenozoic example, in which dolomite petrography and crystal chemistry can be explained in terms of simple transgression-regression, offers a simple sedimentological explanation for many similar dolomites where processes of formation cannot be so easily constrained.