High-stress paleoenvironment during the late Maastrichtian to early Paleocene in Central Egypt

Gerta Keller, Thierry Adatte, Stephen J. Burns, Abdel Aziz Tantawy

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Biostratigraphic, mineralogical, geochemical and isotopic analyses of the Gebel Qreiya section in the Asyut Basin of central Egypt indicate a depositional environment interrupted by periods of erosion due to local tectonic activity exacerbated by eustatic sea-level fluctuations, and by high-stress environmental conditions akin to those normally experienced during the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary transition. During the late Maastrichtian (66.8-65.4 Ma) this region experienced a breakdown of the biologically mediated surface to bottom gradient of the 13C/12C ratio with planktic δ13C values 0.2-0.8 ‰ lighter than benthic values. Planktic foraminiferal species diversity was reduced by more than 50%, with faunal assemblages dominated (75-90%) by the opportunistic disaster species Guembelitria cretacea, which alternate with abundance of small, low oxygen-tolerant heterohelicids (Heterohelix navarroensis, H. dentata, H. globulosa). This prolonged breakdown in ocean primary productivity occurred during a time of global climate cooling and sea-level regressions (at 66.8 and 65.5 Ma), though clay mineralogy suggests that locally low seasonality warm, wet, tropical and subtropical conditions prevailed. The high detrital influx suggests that the biologically high-stress environment was primarily linked to the existing shallow shelf conditions in southern Egypt, and possibly to local tectonic activity and restricted circulation. A normal carbon isotope gradient was briefly reestablished during the short climate warming and rising sea level between 65.4 and 65.2 Ma, a time of increased species diversity, peak abundance of rugoglobigerinids and common heterohelicids. During the last 200 000 years of the Maastrichtian, increased precipitation and terrestrial runoff (increased phyllosilicates and kaolinite) and increasing total organic carbon values are associated with Heterohelix-dominated planktic foraminiferal assemblages. The K/T boundary is marked by a red clay layer and Ir anomaly of 5.4 ppb. During the early Danian, planktic foraminiferal populations and stable isotope data indicate that similarly fluctuating high-stress conditions prevailed in central Egypt as elsewhere in the marginal eastern Tethys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-60
Number of pages26
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


  • High-stress late Maastrichtian paleoenvironment


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