Mass Occurrences of the Brachiopod Halorella in Late Triassic Methane-Seep Deposits, Eastern Oregon

J. Peckmann, S. Kiel, M. R. Sandy, D. G. Taylor, J. L. Goedert
2011 The Journal of geology  
A B S T R A C T The temporally and geographically scattered Phanerozoic record of methane-seep deposits hampers reconstruction of the evolution of life in chemosynthesis-based ecosystems. Unlike modern, Cenozoic, and late Mesozoic seeps, many of the known older seep deposits are typified by assemblages with profuse rhynchonellide brachiopods. Late Triassic (Norian) limestone bodies in eastern Oregon are enclosed in deep-water strata, extend laterally for up to a few hundred meters, and contain
more » ... he dimerelloid rhynchonellide Halorella in rock-forming quantities. The analysis of two large limestone bodies in the Rail Cabin Member of the Vester Formation exposed near Graylock Butte, Grant County, Oregon, fosters the reconstruction of the paleoenvironmental setting of these unusual Halorella deposits, resulting in the first recognition of Triassic methane-seep deposits. The faunal assemblage includes few fossils other than Halorella. Although occasionally found at seeps, the recognized nuculanids are not seep-endemic bivalves. A Nucinella-like bivalve and a possible permophorid bivalve were likely endemic to this chemosynthesis-based environment; related bivalves lived at Jurassic and Cretaceous seeps. The superabundant, mostly articulated brachiopod shells are enclosed in a variety of micrites, including peloidal to clotted micrite. Early fibrous cement, forming banded and botryoidal crystal aggregates, preferentially occurs at the margin of the large limestone bodies but is scarce overall. Peloidal to clotted micrite and banded and botryoidal cement are common constituents of methane-seep limestones. Their negative d 13 C values as low as Ϫ36‰ reveal that carbonate formation was induced by the oxidation of methane. The presence of pyrobitumen (i.e., metamorphosed crude oil) in the limestones may indicate that the seepage fluids contained oil in addition to methane. Apart from the diagnostic 13 C-depleted carbonate phases, mud injections recognized in one of the two limestone bodies also bear testament to former seepage activity.
doi:10.1086/658199 fatcat:feuxr2ipr5a2xn4awimwc4vici