First record of palynomorph assemblages from the Arshad Sandstone (Late Cretaceous), Sirte Basin, north-central Libya

  • Arun KumarEmail author
Original Paper


This paper presents the first record of identifiable palynomorph assemblages from the Arshad Sandstone, Sirte Basin, north-central Libya. Ninety core samples from five different wells were macerated to isolate palynomorphs, but 78 samples turned out to be barren. Among the 12 productive samples, the preservation of palynomorphs was generally poor to fair, limiting identifications at species level. However, despite these limitations workable assemblages were recovered from a few productive samples. Since palynomorph preservation is poor, many forms could only be identified at the generic level and some were unidentifiable. A few stratigraphically significant dinoflagellate cysts were identified at the species level. Palynomorph diversity is fairly high including both terrestrial (angiosperm and gymnosperm pollen grains, spores, algal and fungal remains) and marine (dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs and foraminiferal remains) forms. The lithology of the Arshad Sandstone is quite diverse; variables include very hard and silicified sandstones, massive shales, sandy dolomites, and dolomitic sandstones. Characteristically all these sediments are massive, very hard, and occasionally bioturbated. No identifiable or datable macro- or mega-fossils are known from this stratigraphic unit, and previous attempts to isolate palynomorphs have been unsuccessful. The present palynological study indicates that these sediments were deposited in diverse environments ranging from nearshore terrestrial to shallow marine (inner shelf). Dinoflagellate cyst species indicate that the Arshad Sandstone is of Campanian–Maastrichtian age.


Arshad Sandstone Sirte Basin Libya Campanian–Maastrichtian palynomorphs Paleoenvironments 



I thank Agiela Muftah (Superintendent) and Mustafa Erhuma (Laboratory Coordinator) for the Geological Laboratories, Sirte Oil Company, for providing support to this study. I am thankful to Dr. Edwige Masure of Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France, for helping me in identifying few dinoflagellate cysts and with other helpful suggestions. I thank my son Anshuman Kumar for linguistic improvements to this paper.


  1. Abubakar MB, Luterbacher HP, Ashraf AR, Zeidner AR, Maigari AS (2011) Late Cretaceous palynostratigraphy in the Gongola Basin (Upper Benue Trough, Nigeria). J Afr Earth Sci 60(1–2):19–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahlbrand TS (2001) The Sirte Basin province of Libya-Sirte-Zelten; total petroleum system. US Geol Surv Bull 2202-F:1–29Google Scholar
  3. Barr FT, Weeger AA (1972) Stratigraphic nomenclature of the Sirte Basin, Libya. The Petrl Expl Soc of Libya, TripoliGoogle Scholar
  4. Batten DJ, Uwins PJR (1985) Early to Late Cretaceous (Aptian-Cenomanian) palynomorphs. In: Thusu B, Owens, B. editors. Palynostratigraphy of north east Libya. J Micropalaeontol 4:151–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boltenhagen E (1977) Microplancton du Crétacé supérieur du Gabon. Cahiers de paléontologie. Edi du Cent Nat de la Rech Sci 151 p, 25 PlGoogle Scholar
  6. Bu-Argoub FM (1996) Palynological and palynofacies studies of the Upper Cretaceous sequence in the well C-275-65, Sirte Basin, NE Libya. In: Salem MJ, Mouzughi AJ, Hammada OS (eds) The Geology of Sirte Basin I. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 419–453Google Scholar
  7. Cole JM, Abdelrahim OB, Hunter AW, Schrank E, Ismail MHB (2017) Late Cretaceous spore-pollen zonation of the Central African Rift System (CARS), Kaikang Trough, Muglad Basin, and South Sudan: angiosperm spread and links to the Elaterates Province. Palynology 41(4):547–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Doyle JA, Jardiné S, Dorenkamp A (1982) Afropollis, a new genus of early angiosperm pollen, with notes on the Cretaceous palynostratigraphy and paleoenvironments of northern Gondwana. Bull des Cent de Rech Explor-Prod Elf-Aquitaine 6(1):39–117Google Scholar
  9. Eisawi A, Schrank E (2008) Upper Cretaceous to Neogene palynology of the Melut Basin, Southeast Sudan. Palynology 32:101–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. El-Beialy SY (1994) Palynological investigations of cretaceous sediments in the Abu El Gharadiq Oil Field, western desert, Egypt. Newsl Strat 31(2):71–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. El-Beialy SY (1995) Campanian-Maastrichtian palynomorphs from the Duwi (Phosphate) Formation of the Hamrawein and Umm El Hueitat. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 85(3):303–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. El-Beialy SY, Head MJ, Haytham S, El-Atfy HS (2010) Palynology of the mid-Cretaceous Malha and Galala formations, Gebel el Minshera, North Sinai, Egypt. Palaios 25:517–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. El-Soughier MI, Deaf AS, Mahmoud MS (2014) Palynostratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental significance of the Cretaceous palynomorphs in the Qattara Rim-1X well, North Western Desert, Egypt. Arab J Geosci 7(8):3051–3068CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fatemeh M, Mohsen A (2010) Palynology of the Abderaz Formation in Hamam Ghaleh in Kopet Dagh sedimentary basin. The 1st International Applied Geological Congress, Department of Geology, Islamic Azad University - Mashad Branch, Iran, 26–28 April 2010Google Scholar
  15. Fensome RA, Williams GL, McRae RA (2009) Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic fossil dinoflagellates and other palynomorphs from the Scotian Margin, offshore eastern Canada. J Syst Palaeontol 7(1):1–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gras R, Thusu B (1998) Trap architecture of the Early Cretaceous Sarir Sandstone in the eastern Sirte Basin, Libya. In: Macgregor DS, Moody RTJ, Clark-Lowes DD (eds) Petroleum Geology of North Africa. Geol Soc spec Publ no. 132, London, pp 317–334Google Scholar
  17. Hallett D (2002) Petroleum geology of Libya. Elsevier, Amsterdam 428 pGoogle Scholar
  18. Ibrahim MIA (1996) Aptian-Turonian palynology of the Ghazalat-1 well (GTX-1), Qattara depression, Egypt. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 94:137–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ibrahim MIA (2002) New angiosperm pollen from the Upper Barremian-Aptian of the Western Desert, Egypt. Palynology 26:107–133Google Scholar
  20. Ibrahim MIA, Abdel-Kareem MR (1997) Late Cretaceous palynofloras and foraminifera from Ain El-Wadi area, Farafra Oasis, Egypt. Cretac Res 18:633–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jain KP, Millepied P (1973) Cretaceous micropalnkton from Senegal Basin, NW Africa. Part I. Some new genera, species and combinations of dinoflagellates, Senegal Basin. Palaeobotanist 20:22–32Google Scholar
  22. Jain KP, Millepied P (1975) Cretaceous micropalnkton from Senegal Basin, NW Africa Part II Systematics and biostratigraphy. Geophytology 5:126–171Google Scholar
  23. Jones HL (1996) Late Cretaceous-Early Tertiary stratigraphy of southern concession 6, Sirte Basin, Libya. In: MJ Salem, AJ Mouzughi, OS Hammuda (eds) First Symposium on the Sedimentary Basins of Libya, Geology of the Sirte Basin. The geology of Sirt Basin Earth Science Society of Libya, Elsevier pp 169–184Google Scholar
  24. Kalgutkar RK, Jansonius J (2000) Synopsis of fossil fungal spores, mycelia and fructifications. Amer Assoc of Strat Palyno Contr Ser no 39:1–428Google Scholar
  25. Keegan JB, Stead DT (2007) Late Cretaceous palynofloras from Northeast Libya. In: Subsurface Biostratigraphy of the Cretaceous and Cenozoic of northeast Libya. Wellstrat Service Ltd., Wrexham, pp 85–117Google Scholar
  26. Khaled K, Darwish M, Abu Khadra A, Burki M (2014) Geochemical evaluation of Campanian Sirte shale source rock, Arshad Area, Sirt Basin, Libya. Int Org Sci Res 2(3):84–101Google Scholar
  27. Mahmoud MS (2003) Palynology and palaeoenvironment of the Quseir Formation (Campanian) from Central Egypt. J Afr Earth Sci 36:135–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mehrotra NC, Aswal HS (2003) Atlas of dinoflagellate cysts from Mesozoic-Tertiary sediments of Krishna-Godavari Basin. vol 1, Late Jurrasic-Cretaceous Dinoflagellate Cysts. Geoscience Research Super Group, K. D. Malaviya Institute of petroleum Exploration, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited, Dehradun, India. 146 pGoogle Scholar
  29. Oloto IN (1989) Maastrichtian dinflagellate cyst assemblage from the Nkporo shale on the Benien Flank of the Niger Delta. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 57:173–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Oloto IN, Yikarebogha Y, Omoboriowo AO (2013) Palynological studies of Upper Cretaceous succession of Herwa Well-1, Central Chad Basin, Nigeria. Int J Innov Res in Sci Eng and Tech 2(4):880–889Google Scholar
  31. Prasad B, Pundeer BS (2002) Palynological events and zones in Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary sediments of Krishna-Godavari and Cauvery basins, India. Palaeontogr Abt B 262:39–70Google Scholar
  32. Salem MJ, Mouzughim AJ, Hammuda OS (1996a) The geology of Sirt Basin. Earth Science Society of Libya, 1. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  33. Salem MJ, El-Hawat AS, Sberta AM (1996b) The geology of Sirt Basin. Earth Science Society of Libya, 2. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  34. Salem MJ, Busrewil MT, Missalati AA, Sola MA (1996c) The geology of Sirt Basin. Earth Science Society of Libya, 3. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  35. Schrank E (1991) Mesozoic palynology and continental sediments in NE Africa (Egypt and Sudan)—a review. J Afr Earth Sci 12 (½):363–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schrank E (2001) Paleoecological aspects of Afropollis Elaterates peaks (Albian-Cenomanian pollen) in the Cretaceous of northern Sudan and Egypt. In: DK Goodman, RT Clarke (eds) Proc. 9th International Palynological Conference, Houston, Texas, U.S.A., 1996. Amer Assoc of Strat Palynolo Foundation, pp 201–210Google Scholar
  37. Schrank E, Ibrahim MIA (1995) Cretaceous (Aptian-Maastrichtian) palynology of foraminifera dated wells (KRM-1, AG-18) in Northwest Egypt. Berl Geowiss Abh A177:1–44Google Scholar
  38. Schrank E, Mahmoud MS (1998) Palynology (pollen, spores and dinoflagellates) and cretaceous stratigraphy of the Dakhla Oasis, Central Egypt. J Afr Earth Sci 26(2):167–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Shubber B (2004) Lithology and reservoir characteristics of the “Arshad” sandstone in well MMM 13-6. Sirte Oil Company, Geol Rep no 300 (June, 2004) 34 pGoogle Scholar
  40. Slimani H, Taufique A (2013) A Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary geological site, revealed by planktonic foraminifera and dinoflagellate cysts, at Ouled Haddou, eastern external Rif Chain, Morocco J Afr Earth Sci 88:38–52Google Scholar
  41. Slimani H, Louwyeb S, Toufiq A (2010) Dinoflagellate cysts from the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary at Ouled Haddou, southeastern Rif, Morocco: biostratigraphy, paleoenvironments and paleobiogeography. Palynology 34(1):90–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith AG, Smith DG, Funnell BM (1994) Atlas of Mesozoic and Cenozoic coastlines. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 99 pGoogle Scholar
  43. Starkie S, Keegan JB, Mansouri AL, El-Arnauti A (2007) Stratigraphic nomenclature of Northeast Libya. Wellstrat Services Limited, Wrexham 169 pGoogle Scholar
  44. Weimer R, Buthfer M (2013) A report on the Arshad 3D area, Concession 6. Exploration Department, Sirte Oil Company for production and manufacturing of oil and gas. 144 pGoogle Scholar
  45. Wennekers JHN, Wallace FK, Abugares YI (1996) The geology and hydrocarbons of the Sirt Basin: a synopsis. In: Salem MJ, Mouzughi AJ, Hammuda OS (eds) The geology of Sirt Basin, vol 1. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 3–56Google Scholar
  46. Williams GL, Bujak JP (1985) Mesozoic and Cenozoic dinoflagellates. In: Bolli HM, Saunders JB, Perch-Nielsen K (eds) Plankton stratigraphy, vol 2. Cambridge Earth Science Series, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 847–995Google Scholar
  47. Williams GL, Stover LE, Kidson EJ (1993) Morphologic and stratigraphic ranges of selected Mesozoic-Cenozoic dinoflagellate taxa in the northern hemisphere. Geol Surv Can Pap 92-10:1–137Google Scholar
  48. Williams GL, Fensome RA, MacRae RA (2017) DINOFLAJ3. Amer Assoc of Strat Paly, Data Series no 2. April 2018
  49. Wood GD, Gabriel AM, Lawson JC (1996) Palynological techniques-processing and microscopy. In: J Jansonius, DC McGregor (eds) Palynology: principles and applications: American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists vol 1, pp 29–50Google Scholar
  50. Yahya MMA, Hakimi MH, Galmed MA, El-Sabrouty MN, Ibrahim YKH (2018) Paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic conditions during the deposition of the bauxite layer (Upper Cretaceous) using multi-proxy geochemical and palynological analyses, in the Zabirah area, northern Saudi Arabia. Arab J Geosci 11:15. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Saudi Society for Geosciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations