Isotopic constraints on the genesis and age of autochthonous glaucony in the Oligo-Miocene Torquay Group, south-eastern Australia

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Abstract

The Oligo-Miocene Torquay Group at Bird Rock in south-eastern Australia comprises a sequence of fine-grained skeletal carbonates and argillaceous and glauconitic sandstones, deposited in a cool-water, mid-shelf environment. The Bird Rock glaucony is autochthonous and consists predominantly of randomly interstratified glauconitic smectite, which constitutes bioclast infills and faecal pellet replacements. The results of Rb–Sr and oxygen isotopic analysis of samples taken from a single glauconitic horizon (the BW horizon) indicate that the glaucony developed through a series of simultaneous dissolution–crystallization reactions, which occurred during very early diagenesis in a closed or isochemical system, isolated from the ambient marine environment. The constituent ions of the glaucony were derived primarily from terrigenous clay minerals, but considerable potassium may have been sourced indirectly from sea water, through potassium enrichment of clay precursors. The pore fluids associated with glauconitization were marine derived, but progressively modified by the dissolution–crystallization of detrital clay minerals and autochthonous glaucony. Rb–Sr data for the BW horizon indicate that dating glauconies may be somewhat problematic, as co-genetic glauconitic minerals can show a range of initial strontium compositions, which reflect the incorporation of strontium derived from mineralogical precursors and/or contemporaneous sea water. Rb–Sr isochrons indicate that the glaucony of the BW horizon formed at 23 ± 3 Ma. This age is in good agreement with both the established biostratigraphy and a 87Sr/86Sr age for the horizon (23 ± 1 Ma), but could only be determined using the independent age constraint and the estimate of the 87Sr/86Sr ratio of contemporaneous sea water provided by analysis of associated biogenic carbonate.

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