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Sedimentation, fracturing and sliding on a pelagic plateau margin: the Middle Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous succession of Rocca Busambra (Western Sicily, Italy)



The Jurassic succession of Rocca Busambra consists of two lithostratigraphic units: a pile of peritidal limestones several hundreds of metres thick (Inici Formation: Hettangian to Sinemurian) and a 2 to 15 m thick sequence of Rosso Ammonitico-type pelagic limestones (Toarcian? to lowermost Berriasian). An extensive interval of non-deposition is evidenced by a thick Fe–Mn oxide crust on the bounding disconformity and is recorded partially in the material contained within a complex network of neptunian dykes and sills. Seven lithofacies are distinguished in the Rosso Ammonitico. These lithofacies show that the Rosso Ammonitico limestones differ from most analogues both in Sicily and elsewhere: sediments are mostly grain-supported and non-nodular; obviously bottom currents were important during deposition of these sediments. These currents were pulsating at different frequencies and induced winnowing, intraclast production and early cement precipitation. Other Rosso Ammonitico lithosomes of Late Jurassic to earliest Cretaceous age, usually decimetre thick and discontinuous, overlie the Inici Formation without any Fe–Mn crust; their anomalous stratigraphical and geometrical relationships show that they were deposited on an inclined, stepped, erosional surface incised in the sub-horizontal Inici Formation. This ancient escarpment is interpreted as the result of a mainly gravitational collapse of the margin of a pelagic plateau. Such mass wasting was probably due to the backstepping of the tectonic plateau–basin margin that is not observable directly, but may be inferred from circumstantial evidence. This observation clearly shows that tectonic activity affected the Rocca Busambra sector of the West Tethys continental margins a few tens of millions of years after the end of the rifting stage. The anomalous Rosso Ammonitico sediments are the only indication of the escarpment and their occurrence in the stratigraphic record is probably more widespread than reported in the literature. More accurate palaeoenvironmental and palaeogeographic reconstructions may depend on the identification of these sediments.