Geology, biostratigraphy and carbon isotope chemostratigraphy of the Palaeogene fossil-bearing Dakhla sections, southwestern Moroccan Sahara
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New Palaeogene vertebrate localities were recently reported in the southern Dakhla area (southwestern Morocco). The Eocene sediment strata crops out on cliffs along the Atlantic Ocean coast. Vertebrate remains come from five conglomeratic sandstone beds and are principally represented by isolated teeth belonging to micromammals, selachians and bony fishes, a proboscidean assigned to ?Numidotherium sp. and many remains of archaeocete whales (Basilosauridae). From fieldwork five lithostratigraphic sections were described, essentially based on the lithological characteristic of sediments. Despite the lateral variations of facies, correlations between these five sections were possible on the basis of fossil-bearing beds (A1, B1, B2, C1 and C2) and five lithological units were identified. The lower part of the section consists of rhythmically bedded, chert-rich marine siltstones and marls with thin black phosphorite with organic matter at the base. The overlying units include coarse-grained to microconglomeratic sandstones interbedded with silts, indicating deposition in a shallow-marine environment with fluvial influence. The natural remanence magnetization of a total of 50 samples was measured; the intensity of most of the samples is too weak however, before or after the first step of demagnetization. The palaeomagnetic data from the samples are very unstable, except for eight from three similar sandstone levels which show a normal polarity. Matched with biostratigraphic data on rodents, primates, the selachian, sirenian and cetacean faunas, the new carbon isotope chemostratigraphy on organics (1) refines the age of the uppermost C2 fossil-bearing bed to earliest Oligocene time and (2) confirms the Priabonian age of the B1 to C1 levels.