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Burrow-Generated False Facies and Phantom Sequences

Previous HitHaroldTop R. Wanless, Matthew Tagett

Callianassa (= Ophiomorpha) and other burrowers deeply rework shallow marine sequences. Through in-situ reworking, they create false sedimentary facies and stratigraphic sequences. Callianassa's key to effectiveness is that it expels sand and mud from burrow excavations but concentrates coarse material at the base of the burrow complex. Coarse material can be derived by falling into the burrow entrance, by reworking the existing sediment sequence, or by a combination of both. Examples come from shallow marine carbonate environments of south Florida and the Turks and Caicos Islands, British West Indies.

Many mudbanks in south Florida are formed as stacks of layered mudstone units 20-100 cm thick. Between events, seagrasses may recolonize, and a burrowing benthic community may repopulate the substrate. The layered mudstone beneath older areas of mudbank flats can gradually be converted to a bioturbated skeletal wackestone by the deep burrowing community. Burrowing also causes mixing of faunal assemblages.

On Caicos Bank, an extensive carbonate tidal flat (3-4 m thick) is slowly being transgressed. About 1 m of tidal-flat sequence is eroded at the shoreline. The remaining 2-3 m could be preserved as part of the transgressive sequence. Callianassa burrowing, however, quickly reworks the sequence, replacing tidal-flat sands and muds with marine peloidal and skeletal sediment. Within 100 m of the shoreline, the only evidence of the tidal-flat sequence is a concentration of high-spired gastropods in Callianassa burrows at the base of the Holocene sequence and a few patches of tidal-flat sediment that burrowers missed. What looks like a basal transgressive lag is in fact a biogenic concentrate from in-situ reworking of a now phantom sequence.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.