Deep-sea trace fossils in the West Crocker Formation, Sabah (Malaysia), and their palaeoenvironmental significance

Author : Mazlan MadonPublication : Bulletin of the Geological Society of MalaysiaNo. : 71Page : 23 - 46Year : 2021DOI :


Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia, Volume 71, May 2021, pp. 23 - 46

Deep-sea trace fossils in the West Crocker Formation, Sabah (Malaysia), and their palaeoenvironmental significance

Mazlan Madon

Malaysian Continental Shelf Project, National Security Council, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Abstract: In the “flysch” series of the West Crocker Formation (Eocene–Oligocene), Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, trace fossils are fairly common although not ubiquitous. The trace fossils commonly occur as hypichnial semi- or full-reliefs on the sole of thin turbiditic sandstone beds (mainly Bouma Tc division) in the thinly bedded heterolithic sandstone-mudstone facies interpreted as submarine fan lobe deposits. Their presence in mainly the thinly bedded facies of the fan system suggests preferential production and preservation in the fine-grained “distal” parts of the Crocker submarine fan system. Trace fossil assemblages characteristic of the Nereites ichnofacies indicate sedimentary environments mainly in bathyal to abyssal water depths (>2000 m). This ichnofacies is dominated by horizontal grazing, farming and feeding traces, ranging from solitary to branching tubular burrows (Ophiomorpha, Palaeophycus and Planolites) to meandering trails and tunnels (Nereites, Cosmorhaphe, Helminthopsis), as well as the spiriform burrows Spirophycus. Graphoglyptids are the most diagnostic of the Nereites ichnofacies, produced by sediment grazers and farmers (agrichnia) and often displaying intricate networks of mainly horizontal tunnels preserved as hypichnial semi-reliefs. They include the delicate spiral traces of Spirorhaphe, as well as the enigmatic hexagonal network burrow Paleodictyon. Other ichnogenera include Planolites, Thalassinoides and Ophiomorpha which are facies-crossing and not environment specific. Detailed observations of the trace fossil assemblages and the degree of bioturbation enabled different sub-ichnofacies of the Nereites ichnofacies to be distinguished. Ophiomorpha is more common in sandy “proximal” facies and tend to penetrate deeply into pre-existing turbidite beds, its presence suggests a well-oxygenated newly deposited turbidite substrate, probably in the axial region of the fan lobes. Hence, channel axis and proximal fan deposits tend to be dominated by the Ophiomorpha rudis sub-ichnofacies. The Paleodictyon sub-ichnofacies is more typical of the lower energy lobe/fan fringe subenvironments. Proximal but off-axis areas are characterized by a mixture of the Ophiomorpha rudis and Paleodictyon sub-ichnofacies.

Keywords: Trace fossils, turbidites, ichnofacies, graphoglyptids, paleoenvironment, Sabah