Mid-cycle condensed shellbeds from mid-Pleistocene cyclothems, New Zealand: implications for sequence architecture



    1. Department of Earth Sciences, James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
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      Northern Territory Geological Survey, GPO Box 2901, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia.


Richly fossiliferous and disconformity-bounded facies successions, termed Mid-Cycle Condensed Shellbeds (MCS), occupy a mid-cycle position within depositional sequences in the Castlecliff section (mid-Pleistocene, Wanganui Basin, New Zealand). These shell-rich intervals (0.1–4.5 m thick) comprise the upper of two loci of shell accumulation in Castlecliff sequences. The lower disconformable contacts are sharp and variably burrowed, and are interpreted as submarine transgressive surfaces formed by storm or tidal current erosion at the feather-edge of contemporary transgressive systems tracts. Above (i.e. seaward) of this erosion surface, macrofossil remains (mainly bivalves and gastropods) accumulated, with little reworking, on the inner-shelf under conditions of reduced terrigenous sediment supply. The upper contacts are sharp transitions from shell-rich to relatively shell-poor lithofacies; parautochthonous shell accumulation was ‘quenched’by downlapping highstand systems tract shelf siltstones and muddy fine sandstones. Castlecliff MCS, together with the basal shell-rich part of overlying highstand systems tracts, occupy a stratigraphic position which corresponds to the condensed section that forms at the transgressive/highstand systems tract boundary in the sequence model of Haq et al. (1987). Palaeoenvironmental analysis indicates that Castlecliff MCS are substantially, if not entirely, transgressive deposits. This study therefore shows that the ‘condensation maximum’within a depositional sequence does not necessarily bracket the transgressive systems tract/highstand systems tract boundary.