Mid-Cretaceous basin margin carbonates, east-central Mexico



Isolated, high relief carbonate platforms developed in the intracratonic basin of east-central Mexico during Albian-Cenomanian time. Relief on the platforms was of the order of 1000 m and slopes were as steep as 20–43°. Basin-margin debris aprons adjacent to the platforms comprise the Tamabra Formation. In the Sierra Madre Oriental, at the eastern margin of the Valles-San Luis Potosi Platform, an exceptionally thick (1380m) progradational basin to platform sequence of the Tamabra Formation can be divided into six lithological units.

Basinal carbonate deposition that preceded deposition of the Tamabra Formation was emphatically punctuated by an allochthonous reef block 1 km long by 0·5 km wide with a stratigraphic thickness of 95 m. It is encased in Tamabra Formation unit A, approximately 360 m of peloidal-skeletal wackestone and lithoclastic-skeletal packstone that includes some graded beds. Unit B is 73 m of massive dolomite with sparse skeletal fragments and intraclasts. Unit C, 114m thick, consists of structureless skeletal wackestone passing upward into graded skeletal packstone. Interlaminated lime mudstone and fine grained bioclastic packstone with prominent horizontal burrows are interspersed near the top. Unit D is 126 m of breccia with finely interbedded skeletal grainstone and burrowed or laminated mudstone. The breccias contain a spectrum of platform-derived lithoclasts and basinal intraclasts, up to 10 m in size. The breccias are typically grain supported (rudstone) with a matrix of lightly to completely dolomitized mudstone or skeletal debris. Beds are up to several metres thick. Unit E is 206 m of massive, sucrosic dolomite that replaced breccias. Unit F is approximately 500 m of thick bedded to massive skeletal packstone with abundant rudists and a few mudstone intraclasts. Metre scale laminated lime mudstone beds are interspersed. The section is capped by El Abra Formation platform margin limestone, consisting of massive beds of caprinid packstone and grainstone with many whole valves.

Depositional processes within this sequence shift from basinal pelagic or peri-platform sedimentation to distal, platform-derived, muddy turbidity currents with a large slump block (Unit A); through more proximal (coarser and cleaner) turbidity currents (Unit B?, C); to debris flows incorporating platform margin and slope debris (Units D, E). Finally, a talus of coarse, reef-derived bioclasts (Unit F) accumulated as the platform margin prograded over the slope sequence. Interspersed basinal deposits evolved gradually from largely pelagic to include influxes of dilute turbidity currents.

Units containing turbidites with platform-derived bioclasts reflect flooding of the adjacent platform. Breccia blocks and lithoclasts were probably generated by erosion and collapse of the platform during lowstands. Laminated, black, pelagic carbonates, locally cherty, are interbedded with both breccias and turbidites. At least those interbedded with turbidites may have been deposited within an expanded mid-water oxygen minimum zone during relative highstands of sea level. They are in part coeval with mid-Cretaceous black shales of the Atlantic Ocean.