Messinian stromatolite-thrombolite associations, Santa Pola, SE Spain: an analogue for the Palaeozoic?



Stromatolite-thrombolite associations are the dominant facies forming large portions of the Santa Pola carbonate platform (SE Spain) during deposition of the Terminal Carbonate Complex (TCC). The TCC, the last period of marine sedimentation in the Western Mediterranean associated with the Messinian Salinity Crisis, comprises a NE-SW trending thrombolite reef with occasionally interlayered stromatolite horizons and a predominantply stromatolite and oolite facies in the back-reef area. The stromatolites are mainly dome shaped, but fine-columnar or wavy-undulose forms can occur. The stromatolites form huge bioherms, extending tens to hundreds of metres. They are finely laminated with alternating layers of dolomicrite and dolomicrospar. The dolomicrite layers appear to be a primary dolomite precipitate, whereas the dolomite crystals in the dolomicrospar layers apparently formed around a meta-stable nuclei which was subsequently dissolved or degraded. The low content of sand-sized particles in the stromatolitic layers indicates formation under low-energy conditions, possibly on a tidal flat. As reported from other areas in the Western Mediterranean, deposition of the TCC at Santa Pola was apparently cyclic, whereby stromatolites generally terminate each depositional cycle. Subtidal Conophyton stromatolites, possibly the only known occurrence younger than Palaeozoic, are, however, found on the reef slope at the base of the first TCC depositional cycle. The dolomitic nature of the unadulterated stromatolitic laminations and the association of stromatolites and thrombolites as platform builders were a common feature in the Early Palaeozoic but are unusual in post-Ordovician carbonate facies. We propose that the conditions during TCC deposition were very restricted, possibly reflecting an environment similar to that of the Early Palaeozoic.