Abstract

The Triassic Mercia Mudstone Group of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is dominated by red beds and evaporites. After only limited study, both marine and continental environments have been proposed previously. Here, we describe these rocks for the first time from core and petrographic observations to interpret depositional environments and conditions, such as water depth, salinity, and aridity. Bedded halite, bedded gypsum, displacive halite, and red siliciclastic mudstone lithologies comprise most (∼ 80%) of the 591.6-m-thick Mercia Mudstone Group in the Gaelectric Carnduff-2 core. Bedded halite consists of chevron and cornet crystals, indicating bottom-growth from shallow surface brines. Bedded-gypsum lithology is composed of halite-replaced pseudomorphs after swallowtail, bottom-growth gypsum crystals. Both bedded halite and bedded gypsum contain dissolution features and are commonly overlain by mud drapes. Bedded-halite and bedded-gypsum lithologies are interpreted to have formed in shallow saline lakes influenced by flooding and evapoconcentration. The displacive-halite lithology is composed of sub-cubic halite crystals, randomly oriented in mudstone, and represents deposition in a saline mudflat. Some mudstones contain ripple cross-lamination, dewatering structures, mudcracks, and rip-up clasts, suggesting shallow surface water and desiccation. Other mudstones are massive (structureless) and may have been deposited by wind. Both of these mudstone units were likely deposited in dry mudflats. Other red mudstones contain soil slickensides, blocky peds, and circumgranular cracks and are interpreted as paleosols. Our observations indicate that the Triassic Mercia Mudstone Group was formed by shallow perennial saline lakes and associated continental environments in an arid climate. Furthermore, lack of carbonates, lack of fossils, and paucity of organic matter suggest acid saline lakes and groundwaters. The Triassic Mercia Mudstone Group is similar to some other Pangean red beds and evaporites. Therefore, we hypothesize that the supercontinent was an arid barren landscape hosting acid-saline lakes.

You do not currently have access to this article.