Silica diagenesis in Eocene shallow-water platform carbonates, southern Pyrenees



Spectacularly developed lower Eocene chert in the Corones platform carbonates of the Spanish Pyrenees is concentrated within a restricted, brackish-water, laminated ostracod-rich facies, which also contains abundant sponge spicules. The chert occurs as nodular, bedded and mottled varieties, and four petrographic types of quartz are developed: microquartz; length-fast (LF) chalcedony; megaquartz; and microspheres. δ18O values of chert range from 29·6‰ to 30·9‰ (SMOW), which correspond to a broad isotope rank common for biogenic and diagenetic replacement cherts. Calcian dolomite crystals with high Fe and Na are disseminated within the microquartz and LF-chalcedony, but are absent from the megaquartz and host carbonate. The chert is closely associated with desiccation cracks and with interstratal dewatering structures. Load casts are silicified, and laminae rich in sponge spicules are convoluted. Early cracks related to dewatering are filled by microquartz and quartz cements. Ostracod shells within chert are locally fractured; those in the host carbonate are commonly flattened. Late fractures are filled by LF-chalcedony and megaquartz. There is much evidence for the dissolution of sponge spicules and their calcitization in the carbonate host rock. Silica for the Corones cherts was derived from sponges during early diagenesis and shallow burial. Early mechanical compaction and sediment dewatering played a major role in sponge spicule dissolution, migration of silica-rich fluids and the consequent precipitation of chert. Quartz cements continued to be precipitated into the burial environment.