Widespread seagrass meadows during the Early Miocene (Burdigalian) in southwestern Australia paralleled modern seagrass distributions

David W. Haig, Margaret G. Smith, Rosine Riera, Justin H. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Trealla Limestone, which forms a veneer of foraminiferal-rich limestone and covers over 4000 km2 of the tectonically stable Southern Carnarvon Platform, contains the oldest evidence for seagrass meadows known in Western Australia. It belongs to Lower Tf1 Letter Stage (based on larger benthic foraminifers) of the Burdigalian, within interval 19–16 Ma, and is the only Miocene unit on the platform. The Trealla Limestone here is coeval to the deeper water lower part of the much thicker Trealla Limestone in the Exmouth Sub-basin to the northwest. A seagrass-meadow depositional environment is indicated by most of the studied microfacies based on comparisons with modern sediment composition and foraminiferal assemblages found in innermost shelf seagrass banks between 23°S and 32°S on the present Western Australian coast. Some levels in the Trealla Limestone on the platform (e.g. with abundant miliolid foraminifers, and absence of coral debris) probably were deposited in and around dense seagrass meadows similar to those present today in the metahaline (40–55 ppt salinity) reaches of Shark Bay; whereas other levels (e.g. coral floatstone) were deposited under normal-marine conditions. Based on comparisons with modern carbonate sediment and biota in the region, the biogenic composition of the Trealla Limestone on the platform suggests winter minimum sea-surface temperatures within the range of 17–22 °C. The Nullabor Limestone in the Eucla Basin, at 10° further south on the southern Australian margin, is similar, at least in part, in composition and age to the Trealla Limestone on the Southern Carnarvon Platform. Both may have been deposited during a Burdigalian sea-level rise, and during part of the Miocene climate optimum recognized elsewhere. Sediment composition and foraminiferal assemblages (including epiphytic types) found in the Trealla and Nullabor limestones are similar to those in the modern seagrass banks of the region. This suggests that seagrasses similar to the extensive Posidonia and Amphibolus stands, which are dominant today between 25°S and 35°S along the Western Australian coast, were widespread during the Burdigalian.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109846
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Volume555
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

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