• Cretaceous;
  • northern Brazil;
  • scour-and-fill structures;
  • tsunamis

Late Albian to Cenomanian upper shoreface deposits from the Grajaú Basin, northern Brazil, consist of well-sorted, very fine- to fine-grained sandstones with swaley, trough, tabular and minor hummocky cross-stratification. A striking feature of these deposits is the abundance of large-scale scour-and-fill structures, which consist of regularly spaced, repetitive, very shallow swales with either symmetrical or asymmetrical profiles, arranged along an undulose surface or as a succession of superimposed troughs. The sediment filling these scours is characterized by very fine-grained sandstone with gently undulose, near-parallel lamination to very low-angle dipping cross-stratification intergraded with swaley and hummocky cross-stratification. The nature of the scours and the sedimentary structures of their fills reveal the action of combined flows, which are hydrodynamically similar to those developed during storms. However, it is speculated that the combined flows responsible for the genesis of these structures were formed by tsunami waves enhanced by tsunami-induced ebb currents and/or tidal currents. This interpretation is proposed on the basis of several lines of reasoning: (1) palaeogeographic reconstructions of the study area during the late Cretaceous show that it was outside the belt favourable for the development of storms; (2) comparison of the scour-and-fill structures with stratigraphically correlatable deposits exposed north of the study area, where similar features occur in association with abundant seismically induced, soft-sediment deformation structures; and (3) the presence of several styles of soft-sediment deformation features (i.e. convolute lamination, bed collapse, large-scale folds, massive bedding, sand-filled fractures and diastasis cracks) are suggestive of synsedimentary seismic activity in Cretaceous deposits located in and near to the study area. This study proposes that episodic, high-amplitude tsunami waves, enhanced by tsunami-induced ebb currents, develop powerful flows capable of producing complex patterns of erosion and sedimentation, which may be represented by scour-and-fill structures similar to those described here.