The Late Cretaceous shallow-water depositional areas of southern Tethys were complexes of unprotected shelves occupied by foramol assemblages that produced loose, diagenetically stable bioclastic debris not involved in significant in situ cementation processes. Both storm- and wind-induced currents and waves exercised a strong control on the distribution of the shifting biogenic sediments which covered the open sea-floor, constituting large coalescing sheets of winnowed fine to coarse skeletal sands. Rudists spread over all shelf sectors, from more open and external areas to more internal ones, occupying different substrata and furnishing the bulk of the skeletal component by means of bioerosion processes. They colonised mobile sediments giving rise to complex bodies with peculiar characteristics related to environmental parameters of the different sectors of the shelf. On the basis of detailed sedimentological, taphonomic and palaeontological data, we recognised two main rudist-rich depositional settings ('end members') in the southern Italy Senonian rudist-bearing successions. In successions pertaining to hypothesised marginal shelf sectors, characterised by high-energy regime deposits, rudist lithosomes are metric in thickness and lateral extent and lens-like in morphology.. rich in bioerosion-derived skeletal sand and silt. Rudists are highly diversified. Large elongated cylindro-conical hippuritids (mostly pertaining to the genera Hippurites and Vaccinites), thick-shelled radiolitids and plagioptychids largely dominate. Rudists clustered in life position are subordinate; they often form small bouquets. More commonly these organisms appear fallen but only barely reworked. The rudist-rich bodies laterally pass into clean bioclastic grainstone in which sedimentary structures, related to current and/or storm erosional action, are common. No evidence of significant original relief of the rudist bodies in respect of the neighbouring sediment can be recognised. The submarine erosion and/or the high-energy processes operating presumably inhibited the aggradation of the tidal sediments above the marginal ones. As a consequence the vertical facies organisation shows widespread subtidal cycles, as commonly recognised in open shelves with ramp-like morphologies. In successions pertaining to more internal and/or low-energy sectors, rudist-rich beds rhythmically alternate with finer-grained foraminiferal limestones. Small elevator radiolitids with oligospecific diversity are dominant, mostly concentrated in clumps. Rudists in growth position are abundant, although a large quantity of shells appear toppled with little reworking. They may form laterally continuous biostromal shell beds. Sedimentary structures such as cross-lamination and gradation are only occasionally present. The resulting facies are commonly arranged in peritidal/shallow subtidal cycles in which evidence of subaerial (up to pedogenic modifications on a large and small scale) and, less frequently, submarine exposure is common. Intermediate successions have been recognised, characterised by deposits of silty-sand plains, which present intercalations of graded, bioclastic, storm-related beds. Sedimentological characteristics seem to document more open conditions in which submarine erosion was intermittently prevalent. In these successions rudist species that are commonly found both in high-energy and low-energy assemblages coexist. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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