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ABSTRACT

A superbly exposed stromatolite reef complex occurs in the Victor Bay Formation near Strathcona River on northern Baffin Island. Individual reefs are up to 130 m thick and nearly 1 km in length, and their development was clearly related to their position in the facies spectrum and to sea-level dynamics. In the first sea-level cycle, metre-scale reefs grew amongst mid-ramp calcarenites and outer-ramp shales during slow sea-level rise; a 25-m-thick oblate reef tract, separating mid-ramp and outer-ramp facies, formed during the highstand. The greatest period of reef growth was during the second sea-level cycle. Pinnacle reefs nucleated on the karsted upper surface of the oblate reef tract and aggraded rapidly in response to rising sea-level, producing structures with more than 75 m of depositional relief. A gradual symmetrical succession of stromatolite growth forms, from stratiform to cylindrical columns to conical columns and then back through cylindrical columns to stratiform, is mirrored by evidence in offreef deposits for deepening to a maximum flooding surface and then shallowing. The tops of these high-standing reefs were karsted during the following regression, while dolomite ‘cryptodomes’ grew as sheets on their submerged flanks and as progradational tongues extending basinward of the reefs. Continued sea-level fall resulted in subaerial exposure of the entire reef complex and the extensive formation of surface and subsurface karst.

These Proterozoic slope buildups are similar to Phanerozoic deep-water reefs in size, shape, prevalence of synsedimentary lithification, presence of Neptunian dykes and in their well-developed vertical zonation of reefbuilders. However, they differ in being constructed exclusively by stromatolites rather than being mud mounds with small skeletal elements, and in lacking halos of perireefal sand- and gravel-sized calcareous debris. Their responses to changes in sea-level were strikingly similar to those shown by their younger counterparts, and suggest that sequence-stratigraphic concepts derived from studies of Phanerozoic reefs can also be applied to the Proterozoic.