The Tolmin basin is a typical example of a deep-water Mesozoic basin that developed on the rifted south Tethyan continental margin. Remnants of this basin are preserved at the intersection of the Dinarides and the southern Alps in northwestern Slovenia. The Jurassic successions consist of carbonate gravity-flow deposits, radiolarian cherts and shales, and are overlain by pelagic Biancone limestone. A distinctive chert-dominated interval (the upper member of the Tolmin Formation) was dated with radiolarians. The base of this interval was assigned to the late Bajocian in the distal part of the basin and to the middle Callovian-early Oxfordian in the more proximal part of the basin. The topmost radiolarian cherts are early Tithonian in age. The mid-Tithonian transition from chert to the Biancone limestone was also determined with nannoplankton. The beginning of highly siliceous sedimentation in the Bajocian correlates well over the entire western Tethys and was linked to two factors: an increase in water depth due to regional subsidence and an increase in plankton productivity. The pronounced silica enrichment coincided with the opening of the Alpine Tethys and with the intraoceanic subduction that occurred in the Meliata-Maliac-Vardar Ocean. Reorganization of the plate boundaries may have induced substantial changes in the circulation of water masses that, in turn, had a long-term effect on surface productivity. On the basin scale, radiolarian dating revealed considerable lateral and vertical variations in the thickness of chert successions. This distributional pattern implies that, in narrow continental-margin basins, sedimentation rates were primarily determined by the redeposition of pelagic sediments. Important stratigraphic gaps occur even in the distal basinal setting.