The connection between iron ore formations and "mud-shrimp" colonizations around sunken wood debris and hydrothermal sediments in a Lower Cretaceous continental rift basin, Mecsek Mts., Hungary

Viktor Jáger, Ferenc Molnár, David Buchs, Peter Koděra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

17 Citations (Scopus)


In the Early Cretaceous, the continental rift basin of the Mecsek Mts. (Hungary), was situated on the southern edge of the European plate. The opening of the North Atlantic Ocean created a dilatational regime that expanded to the southern edge of the European plate, where several extensional basins and submarine volcanoes were formed during the Early Cretaceous epoch. Permanent seaquake activity caused high swell events during which a large amount of terrestrial wood fragments entered into submarine canyons from rivers or suspended woods which had sunk into the deep seafloor. These fragments created extended wood-fall deposits which contributed large-scale flourishing of numerous burrowing thalassinid crustaceans. Twelve different thalassinid coprolite ichnospecies can be found in the Berriasian-Hauterivian volcanosedimentary formations. According to the seladonitic crustacean burrows which associated with framboidal pyrite containing Zoophycos and Chondrites ichnofossils (i.e. a "fodinichnia" trace fossil association), the bottom water was aerobic and the pore water was anaerobic; in the latter sulfate reduction occurred. The preservation of wood fragments around thalassinid burrows can be explained by rapid sedimentation related to turbidity currents. Due to the low temperature hydrothermal circulations of seawater, large amounts of iron were released from intrusive, pillowed basaltic sills; these sills intruded into soft, water-saturated sediments containing large amounts of thalassinid excrement. In the coprolites can be found idiomorphic mineral particles originating from the basalts, and coprolites can often be found in peperitic interpillow sediments. This indicates that the life-activity of the decapoda crustaceans in many Lower Cretaceous occurrences initially preceded the first magmatic eruptions. The paroxysm of the rift volcanism took place during the Valanginian age, when some submarine volcanoes emerged above sea level, reaching a maximum height of 300 m (above sea level); from these volcanoes further terrestrial plant debris got into the basin. Hydrothermal vents, which periodically occurred around basaltic bodies until the Hauterivian, could have contributed to the creation of favourable temperature or nutritional conditions for some decapoda crustaceans - e.g the recently described new callianassid (Nihonotrypaea thermophila), which is known only from hydrothermally infuenced habitats. Around the intrusive pillow basalts, hydrothermal circulation of oxygenated seawater occured and thick seladonitic and goethitic fills formed along the cracks and cavities of pillowed basalts. When oxidized, sulfaterich fluids passed into the crustacean coprolite-rich, reductive and anaerobic interpillow sediments, these fluids underwent an intensive sulfate reduction. Thiswas primarily due to termophil sulfate reducers which as proved by the negative sulfur isotope values (-35.9‰ and-28.0‰ δ 34S) of sulfidic hydrothermal chimneys which contain framboidal pyrite and which were formed between the pillow basalts. The largest chimney structure reached a height of 1 m, with a mass of about 150 kg. The sulfide phase is characterized by Mo enrichments up to 511 ppm. The fluid inclusion measurements fromthe calcitic precipitations of the sulfide chimneys indicate lowtemperature (~129 °C) hydrothermal activity, and the salinity of the primary fluid inclusions proves the seawater origin of the hydrothermal fluids. In some thalassinid crustacean coprolite rich interpillow sediments and in the cracks of some hydrothermal calcite, there is the presence of black, lustrous bitumine (gilsonite) which is the distillation product of hydrothermal petroleum formed mainly by the coprolites. Hydrothermal circulationsof oxygenated seawater caused subsequent oxidation of the sulfidic, interpillowsediments and chimneys; these were altered to formgoethite. Due to the short-period of the hydrothermal activity among the intrusive pillowed basalts, sulfidized interpillow sediments could not be oxidized completely. The texture of the goethitic iron ore (as an interpillow sediment) is network-like and dentritic, which is very similar to the iron-oxidic and microbial textured sediments of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. The dendritic ironoxide-hydroxide particles which were involved in this study are not hollow and exceed the size-domain characteristic for bacterial products. However, in some cases hollow- and tube-like particles having a diameter of 1.2-1.5 μm can refer to the activity of the Sphaerotilus-Leptothrix iron-oxidizer bacterial group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-278
Number of pages29
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2012


  • Crustacean coprolites
  • Hydrothermal activity
  • Hydrothermal petroleum
  • Intrusive pillow basalt
  • Iron-ore
  • Wood falls

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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