• Critical cross-section;
  • 2D and 3D tidal cross-strata;
  • Catanzaro Strait;
  • microtidal;
  • tidal amplification;
  • transgression


Sandstone tidal cross-strata are the predominant sedimentary feature of strait-fill stratigraphic successions. However, although widely described in numerous studies, tidal strait-fill two-dimensional and three-dimensional cross-strata have rarely been reported to occur in discrete intervals which are laterally adjacent or vertically stacked, and the meaning of this stratigraphic architecture has not yet been fully investigated. Understanding of the processes responsible for changes in the internal features of modern and ancient tidal bedforms is essential in order to predict lateral and vertical heterogeneities in analogous reservoir strata. This facies-based study aims to interpret the three-dimensional to two-dimensional cross-strata transition observed in the lower Pleistocene mixed siliciclastic/bioclastic sandstone filling the Catanzaro Strait, in southern Italy, during a continuous phase of tectonically driven marine transgression. Tidal cross-strata disappear in the uppermost interval of the studied succession, where mudstone strata prevail. This stratigraphic trend is interpreted as the evidence of an important change in the tidal strait hydrodynamics due to a phase of relative sea-level rise. At the beginning of the transgression, three-dimensional tidal dunes migrated throughout the ca 3 to 4 km wide and ca 30 km long, WNW–ESE-oriented Catanzaro Strait, due to strong tidal currents amplified through the seaway and flowing in semi-diurnal phase opposition. As the intermediate phase of transgression enlarged the seaway width, the tidal current strength decreased as tidal water exchange occurred over a larger cross-sectional area. The progressive reduction of the bed shear stress modified three-dimensional tidal dunes into an extensive two-dimensional bedform field. At the end of the transgression, the further widening of the Catanzaro Strait into a ca 10 to 12 km wide marine passageway changed the tidally dominated strait into a non-tidal open shelf. The results of this research suggest the presence of a ‘critical cross-sectional area’ in the narrowest strait-centre zone which controls the activation and deactivation of tidal current amplification along a marine seaway.