Triassic Latemar cycle tops — Subaerial exposure of platform carbonates under tropical arid climate

Nicholas Christ, Adrian Immenhauser, Frederick Amour, Maria Mutti, Rosalind Preston, Fiona F Whitaker, Arndt Peterhansel, Sven Egenhoff, Paul Dunn, Susan Agar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: The Triassic Latemar platform in the Dolomites, Italy, is the site of several ongoing controversies. Perhaps the most interesting debate focuses on apparent cyclic deposition within the Latemar platform, whose nature and duration are still open to debate. Further disagreement concerns the lack of meteoric diagenesis-related isotope shifts at cycle tops that bear circumstantial petrographic evidence for subaerial emergence. Here, an evaluation of the nature of Latemar cycle tops is presented combining evidence from previous work and new field, petrographic and geochemical data. Cycle tops are ranked according to increasing exposure duration and spatial extent: type I surfaces lacking unequivocal evidence of prolonged supratidal conditions; type II dolomite caps formed in warm, evaporitic, intertidal lagoonal waters followed by exposure of perhaps intermediate duration; type III clastic-rich, red calcareous horizons with some showing platform-wide extent, representing prolonged supratidal conditions, and type IV discontinuities in tepee belts, genetically related to type II and III surfaces, but likely representing shorter-lived exposure stages. Petrographic and geochemical criteria indicate that most diagenesis occurred in the shallow marine and burial domain whilst an extensive meteoric overprint of cycle tops is lacking. This is underlined by the scarcity of meteoric diagenetic fabrics such as gravitational cements that, where present, are here interpreted as marine-vadose in origin. The scarcity of carbon and oxygen isotope signatures commonly assigned to subaerial exposure stages is best explained in the context of mid-Triassic climate. The low latitude, tropical but arid setting of the Latemar, situated in the western extension of the Tethys ocean, its isolation from nearby continental areas and overall short-term emergence episodes are in agreement with a limited degree of meteoric alteration of most cycle tops. High amounts of aeolian clastic material beneath some cycle tops, along with high Fe and Mn elemental abundances argue for intermittent subaerial conditions. This study proposes an enhancement of the classical Allan and Matthews (1982) isotope model for subaerial exposure under strongly arid climates. As the subaerial exposure nature of Latemar cycle tops, and therefore eustasy as the cause for cyclicity, have been previously challenged due to the lack of meteoric-induced isotopic signatures, the outcome of this study is of significance for the ongoing Latemar stratigraphic controversy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1016/j.sedgeo.2012.02.008
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalSedimentary Geology
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Triassic, Latemar, Subaerial exposure, Carbonate Platform, Carbon and oxygen stable isotopes, Diagenesis


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