Trace fossils and sedimentary facies from a Late Cambrian-Early Ordovician tide-dominated shelf (Santa Rosita Formation, northwest Argentina): Implications for ichnofacies models of shallow marine successions


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The Santa Rosita Formation is one the most widely distributed lower Paleozoic units of northwest Argentina. At the Quebrada del Salto Alto section, east of Purmamarca, Jujuy Province, it is represented by four sedimentary facies: thick-bedded planar cross-stratified quartzose sandstones (A), thin-bedded planar cross-stratified quartzose sandstones and mudstones (B), wave-rippled sandstones and bioturbated mudstones (C), and black and greenish gray shales (D). Paleocurrent data, sandstone architecture, and sedimentary structures from facies A and B indicate bipolar/bimodal paleoflows, suggesting the action of tidal currents. The succession is interpreted as that of a tide-dominated shelf, with only secondary influence of wave processes. Trace fossils are restricted to facies B and C. The Cruziana ichnocoenosis is preserved on the soles of thin-bedded planar cross-stratified quartzose sandstones (facies B). This ichnocoenosis consists of Conostichus isp., Cruziana omanica, C. semiplicata, C. cf. tortworthi, Cruziana isp. Helminthopsis abeli, Monomorphichnus bilinearis, M. multilineatus, Palaeophycus tubularis, Rusophycus carbonarius, R. latus, and R. isp. The occurrence of Cruziana semiplicata, C. omanica, C. cf. tortworthi, and Rusophycus latus supports a Late Cambrian-Tremadoc age. Slabbing of Cruziana shows complex interactions between biologic and sedimentologic processes, and suggests a predominance of exhumed traces, washed out and recast by tractive sand deposition. Sandstone soles are densely packed with biogenic structures and exhibit distinctive clusters of Rusophycus isp. that most likely represent trilobite nesting burrows. The Cruziana ichnocoenosis records the resident fauna of a protected, lower intertidal to subtidal interbar setting. The Skolithos ichnocoenosis is represented by high to low density vertical burrows of Skolithos linearis, which extend downwards to the quartzose sandstone soles of facies B and cross the Cruziana ichnocoenosis. The Skolithos ichnocoenosis represents colonization by suspension-feeding organisms following a major change in environmental conditions, related to the migration of lower intertidal to subtidal sandwaves. The Planolites ichnocoenosis consists exclusively of Planolites montanus within mudstones overlying wave-rippled sandstones (facies C). The Planolites ichnocoenosis records opportunistic colonization by infaunal deposit feeders that mined the organic-rich fine-grained sediment during the waning phase of storms that scoured organic detritus from the sea bottom. The section records, from base to top, a Cruziana-Skolithos ichnofacies zone, a Skolithos ichnofacies zone and an unbioturbated zone typified by the thick-bedded cross-stratified quartzose sandstone (facies A). This trend reflects progressively higher energy conditions linked to the establishment of a large sand wave complex. The presence of a mixed Cruziana-Skolithos ichnofacies in the lower interval reflects changes in substrate and energy levels, rather than water depth. Accordingly, contrasting ichnocoenoses from interbars (Cruziana) and sandwaves (Skolithos) must be considered an example of ichnofacies controlled by local parameters instead of general bathymetric trends. Conversely, the vertical replacement of the Cruziana ichnofacies by the Skolithos ichnofacies towards the middle interval of the section reflects the environmental changes associated with the transition between the intertidal and subtidal zones. As overall tidal energy increases from supratidal to subtidal settings, the Skolithos ichnofacies tends to occur seaward of the Cruziana ichnofacies in tide-dominated shallow marine environments. Therefore, onshore-offshore ichnofacies replacement in tide-dominated shallow seas is opposite to that in wave-dominated marine settings.

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Trace fossils and sedimentary facies from a Late Cambrian-Early Ordovician tide-dominated shelf (Santa Rosita Formation, northwest Argentina): Implications for ichnofacies models of shallow marine successions
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