Review of the criteria which have been proposed for distinguishing between the deposits of turbidity currents and bottom currents in deep water sedimentation shows no general agreement on their validity. It is important to compare finegrained turbidites and contourites, to recognize that different turbidity current and bottom current mechanisms exist, and that their deposits may be closely inter-bedded in a continental rise environment.
Interbedded turbidites and contourites have been recognized in cores from the deep-water margin off Nova Scotia. The most useful criteria for distinguishing between the two deposits were found to be: (1) fining and sorting trends: perpendicular or parallel to the contours; (2) marked textural differences between interbedded turbidites and contourites indicating differences in source and transport distance; (3) mineralogy and textural composition: regional patterns indicating transport perpendicular or parallel to the contours; (4) grain fabric: indication of downslope or along-slope transport at the time of final deposition; (5) sedimentary structures: turbidites show a structural sequence and evidence of rapid burial; contourites are bioturbated and contain irregular lag concentrations of biogenic sand. Other criteria include grain-size parameters, and the regional setting, distribution and depositional rate of the various facies. With due care these criteria can be applied to other regions.
Previously used characteristics of silt-laminae abundance, layer thickness, heavy mineral cross lamination, sorting, and the nature of bed contacts are not applicable to fine-grained turbidites and contourites. Compositional criteria depend on regional features.