The Westernmost Tethys Blog Geology mapping, basin analysis and 3D modeling


Middle Eocene carbonate platforms of the westernmost Tethys

A study of the paleoenvironmental evolution of the middle Eocene platforms recognized in the westernmost Tethys has been carried out in the well exposed middle 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.

Environmental microfacies distribution for the Middle Eocene marine Depositional Sequence 2 (Malvariche andCánovas fms) in Sierra Espuña, arranged from proximal to distal depositional environments: Mf3, Inner ramp lagoon, upper subtidal environment; Mf5, Inner ramp seagrass, euphotic subtidal environment; Mf6 – Mf7, Inner ramp, euphotic lower subtidal environment; Mf2, Proximal middle ramp LBF accumulations (nummulitids), mesophotic environment; Mf1, Proximal middle ramp maërl, mesophotic environment; Mf8, Distal middle ramp LBF accumulations (orthophragminids), mesophotic environment; Mf4, Outer ramp lacking Large Bethic Foraminifera (LBF), oligophotic environment. Ramp subdivision is based on Burchette and Wright (1992), and photic zones are analogous to those described by Pomar et al. (2017), with a ‘mesophotic zone’ comprised between lower limit of occurrence of marine vegetation and the storm wave base (swb).


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.

Biochronostratigraphic chart with numerical time scale, magnetochrons, magnetic polarity, planktonic foraminifera and calcareous nannoplankton zones based on GTS 2012 (Gradstein and Ogg, 2012), correlated with shallow benthic zones (SBZ). Interpretations of main climatic events, trophic resources continuum, LBF specific diversity and coral events in the Tethyan domain are also represented. A synthetic column with the stratigraphic formations and the main trophic conditions and Large Bethic Foraminifera (LBF) and coral (*) events of the Sierra Espuña-Mula Basins are also included.

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.

Cite as: Martín-Martín, M., Guerrera, F., Tosquella, J., Tramontana, M., 2021. Middle Eocene carbonate platforms of the westernmost Tethys. Sediment. Geol. 415, 105861. doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2021.105861



Terminology revision of AlKaPeCa and Mesomediterranean Microplate

Filed under: geodynamic evoluton,paleogeography,Tethys — Tags: , , , — messinianalicante @ 2:15 PM

The use of terms strictly related to the original formulation of different models caused, in some cases, inaccuracies in the univocal identification of some main palaeogeographic elements.

Bouillin et al. (1986) introduced the acronym AlKaPeCa for a lithospherical block formed by Alboran-Kabylian-Peloritan-Calabrian Internal Zones, Alpine units. According to them the relationships between AlKaPeCa and the Maghrebian Flysch Basin  may be synthesized as follows:‘ the only possible oceanic zone known between Western Europe and Africa, at the Jurassic time, corresponds to the basement of the Flyschs which was located southward of AlKaPeCa’ .

 Many palaeogeographic interpretations of the Jurassic-Cretaceous evolution of the Betic, Maghrebian and Apennine Chains have been roughly grouped into two main general families: (1) Type A  models: they state the presence of a single oceanic area (i.e., the Tethys) located between the African and European Plates; (2) Type B  models: they consider the occurrence of two oceanic branches of the Tethys surrounding one or more microcontinents located between the African and European Plates. Both classes of models imply a different evolution during the Pangea breakup and during the Cretaceous-Cenozoic convergence. According to Type A  models the Pangea broke with a single oceanic branch located between Europe and Africa, meanwhile according to Type B  models the fragmentation was more complex leading to two oceanic branches with several microplates located between Europe and Africa.

Reproduction of some original figures from literature concerning Type B models (A to D boxes) showing some inappropriate use of terms. The figures presented show Type B models which use the term AlKaPeCa instead of Mesomediterranean Microplate (MM). (a). Palaeogeographic sketch map (at Jurassic times) and evolutionary cross sections from Late Jurassic to Middle Miocene (after Michard et al. 2002); (b). Evolutionary palaeogeographic cross sections from Eocene to Oligocene (after Viti et al. 2009); (c). Evolutionary palaeogeographic sketch maps from 55 to 45 My (after Schmid et al. 2017); (d). Palaeogeographic sketch map at Early Miocene times (after Leprêtre et al. 2018).

According to Guerrera et al. (2019)  the original meaning of AlKaPeCa should be reserved to indicate a detached piece of the European Margin while the Mesomediterranean Microplate  should be used exclusively for the independent microplate even though during the Maghrebian- Apennine orogeny these elements actually coincide to form the Internal Zones of these chains. For this reason, the use of this acronym is not appropriate for models which consider the occurrence of an independent microplate surrounded by different oceanic branches of the Tethys since Mesozoic. A more common name used in literature for this microplate is the Mesomediterranean Microplate.

Cite as: Guerrera, F., Martín-Martín, M., and Tramontana, M. (2019): Evolutionary geological models of the central-western peri-Mediterranean chains: a review. International Geology Reviews. 1-22. doi: 10.1080/00206814.2019.1706056


Evolutionary geological models of the central-western peri-Mediterranean chains

Filed under: paleogeography,Tectonosedimentary model,Tethys — Tags: , , , — messinianalicante @ 8:06 AM

Two main groups of geological models presented over the last four decades on the paleogeographic, paleotectonic and geodynamic eo-Alpine and neo-Alpine evolution of the central-western Mediterranean area were compared. The comparison was carried out mainly considering the main stratigraphic, sedimentological, petrographic, structural and plate tectonic constraints. Moreover, recent geophysical interpretations and reconstructions were also considered with an aim of presenting all the different results. The models can roughly be grouped into two main classes. First family considers the presence of the Mesozoic Tethyan Ocean, where a single oceanic basin is located between Africa and Europe and from which both eo-Alpine and neo-Alpine chains were generated during the Cretaceous to Miocene time span. Conversely, the other class considers the occurrence of at least two Tethyan oceanic branches (or with thinned continental crust) since the Jurassic, separated by one or more microcontinents. The pros and cons of both classes of models are presented. Progressive innovations and improvements to the two groups of models were proposed over the years. However, because the modelsare based on different data sets resulting from basic geological studies or obtained by means of other approaches, they often do not integrate easily.This caused interpretative difficulties and terminological uncertainties for their comparison, and completely different models were considered equivalent and, sometimes, the same terminology was used indifferently to identify different geological subjects. The main differences between the examined models concern the kinematic reconstructions and by hence in the paleogeographic and paleotectonic interpretations. The discussion presented in this paper aims at contributing to clarify and update the state of knowledge on this controversial topic.

General framework and correlations of the main evolutionary stages and geodynamic events (Triassic to Pliocene) of the eoalpine and neo-alpine systems reconstructed in different sectors of the central-western peri-Mediterranean chains (A to C boxes). (a). Palaeogeographic sketch map of the Central-Western Tethys (at Jurassic times) with the location of the sectors mentioned in the work; (b). Sketch map of present times showing the central-western peri-Mediterranean chains with the location of the sectors mentioned in the work; (c). Main evolutionary stages and geodynamic events (Triassic to Pliocene) of the different sectors of the central-western peri-Mediterranean chains.

Cite as: Guerrera, F., Martín-Martín, M., and Tramontana, M. (2019): Evolutionary geological models of the central-western peri-Mediterranean chains: a review. International Geology Reviews. 1-22. doi: 10.1080/00206814.2019.1706056

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