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The Lower Triassic Sorkh Shale Formation is a dominantly red colored marginal marine succession deposited in the north-south trending Tabas Basin of east central Iran. It is correlated with the unconformity-bounded lower limestone member of the Elika Formation of the Alborz Mountains of northern Iran. The Sorkh Shale is bounded by the pre-Triassic and post-Lower Triassic interregional unconformities and consists mainly of carbonates, sandstones, and evaporites with shale being a minor constituent. Detailed facies analysis of the Sorkh Shale Formation resulted in recognition of several genetically linked peritidal facies that are grouped into restricted subtidal, carbonate tidal flat, siliciclastic tidal flat, coastal plain and continental evaporite facies associations. These were deposited in a low energy, storm-dominated inner-ramp setting with a very gentle slope that fringed the Tabas Block of east central Iran and passed northward (present-day coordinates) into deeper water facies of the Paleotethys passive margin of northern Cimmerian Continent. Numerous carbonate storm beds containing well-rounded intraclasts, ooids and bioclasts of mixed fauna are present in the Sorkh Shale Formation of the northern Tabas Basin. The constituents of the storm beds are absent in the fair weather peritidal facies of the Sorkh Shale Formation, but are present throughout the lower limestone member of the Elika Formation. The Tabas Block, a part of the Cimmerian continent in east central Iran, is a rift basin that developed during Early Ordovician-Silurian Paleotethys rifting. Facies and sequence stratigraphic analyses of the Sorkh Shale Formation has revealed additional evidence supporting the Tabas Block as a failed rift basin related to the Paleotethys passive margin. Absence of constituents of the storm beds in the fair weather peritidal facies of the Sorkh Shale Formation, presence of the constituents of the storm beds in the fair weather facies of the Elika Formation (the Sorkh Shale equivalent in the Alborz Paleotethys margin) and southward paleocurrent directions of carbonate storm beds suggest that the low topographic gradient of the ramp in the Tabas failed rift basin was facing the Paleotethys Ocean, where the storms were generated. In addition, northward paleocurrent directions of the fair weather facies and northward increase in carbonate content of the Sorkh Shale sequence further indicate that the Tabas Basin was tectonically a part of the Paleotethys passive margin. It is apparent that relative sea level, basin geometry and tectonic movements along the bounding faults played significant roles during deposition of the Sorkh Shale Formation by controlling accommodation space and facies variations along the Tabas failed rift basin.
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The Lower Triassic Sorkh Shale Formation of the Tabas Block, east central Iran: Succesion of a failed-rift basin at the Paleotethys margin