Architecture and sequence stratigraphy of the Upper Coralline Limestone formation, Malta – implications for Eastern Mediterranean restriction prior to the Messinian Salinity Crisis

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Or M. Bialik, Raymond Zammit, Aaron Micallef


The Eastern and Western Mediterranean are separated by an elevated plateau that regulates water exchange between these two basins. The Maltese archipelago, situated atop this topographic high, offers a unique window into the evolution of this plateau in the lead up to the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC). The Upper Coralline Limestone formation was deposited between the late Tortonian and the early Messinian and was likely terminated by paleoceanographic events related to the MSC. It represents the youngest Miocene sedimentary deposits outcropping in the Maltese archipelago. This shallow-water carbonate unit can be used to trace paleoenvironmental changes atop the sill between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean and to explain the possible water flow restrictions to the Eastern Mediterranean that could have preceded the MSC. Here we combine field surveys and analysis of the depositional environment within the Upper Coralline Limestone in Malta, with recently acquired multichannel seismic reflection profiles between Malta and Gozo, to reconstruct the depositional sequence in the Malta Plateau during the late Miocene.
The Upper Coralline Limestone consists of multiple coralline and larger benthic foraminifera dominated facies, extending from subtidal to intertidal environments. These accumulated in two depositional cycles observed in both outcrop and seismic reflection data. Each cycle exhibits an early aggradation-progradation phase followed by progradation phase and a final aggradation phase. These manifest themselves in the outcrops as shallowing and deepening upwards phases. These were deposited above a deep water unit and indicated a preceding uplift phase followed by filling of the accommodation space through the deposition of the Upper Coralline Limestone formation in shallow marine depths. These indicate the presence of a highly elevated sill during the late Miocene, which could have restricted circulation to the eastern basin.



Geology, Sedimentology, Stratigraphy


Carbonate platform, Malta Plateau, late Miocene C type carbonate factory, Central Mediterranean, Malta Plateau, late Miocene C type carbonate factory, Central Mediterranean


Published: 2020-11-18 13:03


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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