Maastrichtian to Paleocene depositional environment of the Dakhla Formation, Western Desert, Egypt: Sedimentology, mineralogy, and integrated micro- and macrofossil biostratigraphies

A. A. Tantawy, Gerta Keller, T. Adatte, W. Stinnesbeck, A. Kassab, P. Schulte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Integrated sedimentology, mineralogy, geochemistry, and microfossil biostratigraphies of the Maastrichtian-early Paleocene Dakhla Formation of the Western Desert, Egypt, provide improved age resolution, information on the cyclic nature of sediment deposition, and the reconstruction of depositional environments. Age control based on integrated biostratigraphies of planktic foraminifera, calcareous nannofossils and macrofossils yields the following ages for stratigraphic and lithologic sequences. The contact between the Duwi and Dakhla formations marks the Campanian/Maastrichtian boundary (zone CF8a/b boundary) and is dated at about 71 Ma. The age of the Dakhla Formation is estimated to span from 71 Ma at the base to about 63 Ma at the top (zones CF8a-Plc). The Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary is within the upper unit of the Kharga Shale Member and marked by a hiatus that spans from 64.5 Ma in the lower Paleocene (base Plc) to at least 65.5 Ma (base CF2, base M. prinsii zones) in the upper Maastrichtian at Gebel Gifata, the type locality of the Dakhla Formation. As a result, the Bir Abu Minqar horizon, deposited between about 64.2 and 64.5 Ma (Plc(1) zone), directly overlies the K/T boundary hiatus. Major hiatuses also span the late Maastrichtian-early Paleocene in sections to the northwest (c. 61.2-65.5 Ma at North El Qasr, c. 61.2-69 Ma at Bir Abu Minqar and c. 61.2-65.5 Ma at Farafra), and reflect increased tectonic activity. During the Maastrichtian-early Paleocene a shallow sea covered the Western Desert of Egypt and the clastic sediment source was derived primarily from tectonic activity of the Gilf El Kebir spur to the southwest of Dakhla and the Bahariya arch. Uplift in the region resulted in major hiatuses in the late Maastrichtian-early Paleocene with increased erosion to the southwest. The area was located near the palaeoequator and experienced warm, wet, tropical to subtropical conditions characterized by low seasonality contrasts and predominantly chemical weathering (high kaolinite and smectite). A change towards perennially more humid conditions with enhanced runoff (increased kaolinite) occurred towards the end of the Maastrichtian and in the early Paleocene with shallow seas fringed by Nypa palm mangroves. Sediment deposition was predominantly cyclic, consisting of alternating sandstone/shale cycles with unfossiliferous shales deposited during sea-level highstands in inner neritic to lagoonal environments characterized by euryhaline, dysaerobic or low oxygen conditions. Fossiliferous calcareous sandstone layers were deposited in well-oxygenated shallow waters during sea-level lowstand periods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-827
Number of pages33
JournalCretaceous Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Palaeontology


  • Biostratigraphy
  • Egypt
  • K/T
  • Maastrichtian
  • Mineralogy
  • Sedimentology
  • Western desert


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