Abstract

The occurrence of mounds dominated by siliceous sponges and microbialites is often related to distal, deep settings of middle ramps and shelves. This paper presents evidence for Bajocian (Garantiana garantiana Zone) microbial–siliceous sponge mounds formed in open marine but relatively shallow settings of a ramp from the Iberian Basin of eastern Spain. Marked differences in mound spacing, morphology, and composition of the related intermound facies are observed from distal to more proximal settings. The distal (below storm wave base) settings are characterized by alternating tabular-bedded marls and limestones rich in pelagic fossils (ammonites, belemnites), open-marine thin-shelled bivalves (Bositra-like), as well as peloids, which include widely or randomly spaced isolated, small (up to 0.4 m high) and larger (up to 2.5 m high) mounds with upward accretion. The intermediate (near to above storm wave base) settings show tabular, thickened beds of peloidal and/or intraclastic limestones with closely spaced mounds (∼ 1 m high), which often coalesce laterally, forming extensive lenticular structures (up to 10 m wide). The proximal (above storm wave base) depositional settings consist of tabular to irregular beds of intraclastic limestones with widely spaced small (up to 0.4 m high) mounds with mainly tabular geometries. The mound framework contains variable proportions of microbialites (dense to clotted peloidal thrombolitic fabrics) and siliceous sponges (hexactinellids and lithistids in similar proportion) ranging from planar to conic shapes. These morphological and compositional changes allow characterizing three shallowing-upward sequences (sequences 1–3) developed in the overall regressive trend of a basin-wide, upper Bajocian T-R cycle. Episodic wave reworking of the early-cemented mounds resulted in the formation of peloids, small rounded intraclasts, and large, rounded or subangular intraclasts. These nonskeletal micritic grains show internal fabrics related to those of the mound and/or microbialites. A progressive textural gradation towards greater size and lesser roundness of the nonskeletal grains in the areas in the vicinity of the main mound factory is documented (i.e., from large, subangular intraclasts in the areas close to the main mound factory to peloids in the areas that are far from it). We discuss the alternative model of internal waves (instead of storm-induced waves) as the hydrodynamic agent providing the high-energy events needed to explain the origin of the peloidal–intraclastic intermound facies and, likely, also the nutrients needed by the microbialites and siliceous sponges to grow.

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