Evinosponges in the Triassic Esino Limestone (Southern Alps): documentation of early lithification and late diagenetic overprint



A carbonate buildup of Middle Triassic age, the Esino Limestone, outcrops in the Southern Calcareous Alps of Lombardy (N Italy). Along its margin and within the open subtidal facies, the Esino Limestone contains calcite cement-filled cavities of cm to m size. These features, known as evinosponges, may form pervasive networks within the host rock. The filling consists of concentric, isopachous layers of fibrous low-Mg calcite crystals characterized by strong undulose extinction and bent cleavages. The cement crusts are non-luminescent under cathodoluminescence, but both cements and host rock are cross-cut by micro-fractures filled with bright-luminescent calcite, related to late void-filling sparite. Mixing of different carbonates is reflected in stable isotope data. On the hand specimen scale, the oxygen and carbon isotope compositions of cements and host rock show little variation. When compared on a regional scale, the values cover a broad range from δ18O(PDB)=−5‰ to −12‰ and from δ13O =0‰ to +3‰. The linear covariant trends defined by the oxygen and carbon isotope data for different sampling regions reflect the admixture of late, isotopically depleted calcite with an isotopically enriched non-luminescent calcite of early diagenetic origin.

The Esino Limestone fibrous cements, which were probably precipitated in the marine or marine-meteoric phreatic environment, were affected by late diagenetic processes that caused mineral deformation and isotopic depletion through recrystallization and the admixture of a later calcite. These later calcites precipitated from penetrative fluids possibly related to Late Triassic volcanic activity and/or to the Late Cretaceous/Early Palaeogene alpine orogeny.