A study of the paleoenvironmental evolution of the middle Eocene platforms recognized in the westernmost Tethys has been carried out in the well exposedmiddle Eocene succession from Sierra Espuña-Mula basin (Betic Cordillera, S Spain). Eight microfacies (Mf1 to Mf8) have been recognized, based mainly on fossil assemblages (principally larger benthic foraminifera), and rock texture and fabric.
The fossiliferous assemblage can be asigned to the ‘subtropical’ heterozoan association or to the low-latitude ‘foralgal facies’, which are dominated by non-framework building, light-dependent biota such as perforate larger benthic foraminifera, coralline algae, and sometimes green algae and solitary corals. Larger benthic foraminifer assemblages, corresponding from euphotic to oligophotic conditions and the large surface showed, suggest a progressive marine ramp under essentially oligotrophic conditions. Eventually, supply of detrital sediments from the continent and/or upwelling currents increasse the nutrients of marine waters. Comparision with other Tethyan sectors allows stating that coral-reef buildups (z-corals) were widespread on shallow platforms of the central and eastern Tethys Ocean, but that these were neither of great dimensions nor dominant because of the much more dominant presence of larger benthic foraminifera. Moreover, these coral constructions were completely absents in the westernmost Tethys. The dominance of larger benthic foraminifera and the absence of z-corals in the westernmost Tethys is explained by particular paleogeographic features due to the occurrence of a narrow and deep oceanic branch (i.e., the Maghrebian Flysch Basin) connecting the Tethys with the Atlantic Ocean.
The various issues regarding the morphological characters and evolution of larger benthic foraminifera in the study area, such as sizes of tests, specific diversity and/or intraspecific variability, number of appearances and last occurrences during the middle Eocene are analyzed and compared with those appearing in other Tethyan sectors. In addition, the early to late Bartonian boundary is recognized in the study area as critical for the biological change as in other shallow-marine environments along the Tethys margins.