Microbialites of the Neoproterozoic Beck Spring Dolomite, Southern California

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Abstract

Ancient microbialites reflect interactions between microbial communities and environmental conditions. However, evaluating the relative roles of microbial community processes and environmental influences on microbialite morphology and internal fabric in the rock record can be challenging. The Neoproterozoic Beck Spring Dolomite preserves diverse microbialites, and thus provides an opportunity to explore the factors that influenced microbialite development locally. Stromatolitic, thrombolitic and composite microbialites are abundant in subtidal to upper intertidal carbonates in the Beck Spring Dolomite. Thrombolitic and composite microbialites have not been recognized previously in this unit, but compose much of the newly defined thrombolitic member. Stratigraphic relationships demonstrate that these three types of microbialites formed in close spatial and temporal association in subtidal to intertidal environments. The relative proportions and distributions of stromatolitic and thrombolitic microbialites vary with depositional environment; stromatolitic microbialites dominate in deeper intertidal to subtidal facies, whereas thrombolitic textures are more abundant in upper intertidal facies. Composite microbialites, composed of intermingled clotted and laminated textures, formed in all environments but are most abundant in intertidal facies. The broad environmental distribution of stromatolitic, thrombolitic and composite microbialites and the intermingling of textures suggest that laminated and clotted textures reflect diverse microbial community morphologies rather than environmental variations. Furthermore, the ca 750 Ma age of thrombolitic microbialites in the Beck Spring Dolomite requires that they formed without the influence of calcimicrobes or metazoans colonizing and grazing the microbial mat surface. Thus, these thrombolites provide further evidence that the biostratigraphic distribution of thrombolites cannot be uniquely attributed to evolution of calcifying and grazing organisms in the earliest Cambrian, and that older microbial communities were capable of producing clotted textures.

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