Uppermost Tortonian to lower Messinian temperate carbonates crop out in the Agua Amarga Basin (SE Spain). They consist of four units. The lower three units can be tentatively assigned to the lowstand systems tract of a fourth-order sequence, constituting in turn the lowstand (‘megatrough unit’), transgressive (‘breccia unit’) and highstand (‘bedded unit’) stages of a higher-order cycle. All these materials were deposited in a small pull-apart basin related to the sinistral Carboneras strike-slip fault system. The best represented is the bedded unit (up to 25 m thick), which consists of bioclastic, bryozoan/bivalve-dominated calcarenites/calcirudites with abundant fragments of echinoids, barnacles, benthic foraminifers, coralline algae, brachiopods and solitary corals. Facies trends within this unit are roughly arranged in an E-W direction, with the coastline to the north of the basin. The depositional model is that of a gentle ramp with prograding beaches and shoals in its higher parts. Seaward of the shoals was the ‘factory area’, where most organisms lived and maximum carbonate production took place. From this area some of the skeletons were washed landwards by waves and/or currents during storms and incorporated into the shoals and beaches, and others moved downslope along the ramp as mass-flows, accumulating to form the ‘fan-bedded zone’.

The factory-area and fan-bedded sediments intercalate five well-defined, thick beds of calcarenites/fine-grained calcirudites. They show bar morphologies (single or amalgamated), or make up sand-waves with very consistent tabular cross-bedding pointing landwards. These beds formed in a very shallow, wave/current-influenced, coastal environment. The bars and sand waves in the fan-bedded zone developed during lowstands, while those located higher up in the ramp interbedded with the factory facies are related to transgressive stages. Prograding beaches, shoals, factory facies and fan-bedded layers developed during the highstands. Net skeletal production occurred mainly during the highstands.

Sediment-accretion values of these sediments are similar to those of present and ancient shallow-marine, temperate carbonates considering that the whole bedded unit was deposited in a 100 000-year interval (equivalent to the short eccentricity cycle). The five cycles inside the bedded unit would therefore correspond to the c. 20 000-year precession cycles of the Milankovitch band.