Chert occurrences in carbonate turbidites: examples from the Upper Jurassic of the Betic Mountains (southern Spain)



In Upper Jurassic carbonate turbidites of the Betic mountains (southern Spain), chert occurs in three morphologies: bedded chert, nodular chert and mottled chert. The last refers to a weak dispersed and selective silification which gives a speckled appearance to the rock. The three types of chert are formed by replacement of limestones and are associated with different calcareous facies. Turbidite packstones of Saccocoma and peloids, and turbidite lime mudstones of pelagic material contain bedded and nodular cherts. The silicification textures are mainly micro- and cryptocrystalline quartz, with local chalcedonic quartz (both length-fast and length-slow) which is more common in the packstones. Only mottled chert is produced where calcareous breccia beds are silicified. Mottled chert consists of micro- and cryptocrystalline quartz, length-slow chalcedonic quartz and mosaics or individual crystals of euhedral megaquartz. Beds and nodules are the result of early diagenetic silicification, with silica derived from the calcitization and dissolution of radiolarians and, subordinately, sponge spicules, whereas mottled chert is the consequence of later silicification in a probably Mg-rich environment.

Early silicification is mainly confined to turbidite beds and only rarely occurs in the interbedded pelagic limestones. Turbidite sedimentation favours silicification because rapid burial of the transported siliceous tests prevents silica from the dissolution of tests passing into overlying sea water. A silica-rich interstitial fluid develops in the turbidite layer and this migrates to more permeable zones giving rise to bedded and nodular chert.