, 64:7 | Cite as

New paleoenvironmental insights on the Miocene condensed phosphatic layer of Salento (southern Italy) unlocked by the coral-mollusc fossil archive

  • Alessandro Vescogni
  • Agostina Vertino
  • Francesca R. Bosellini
  • Mathias Harzhauser
  • Oleg Mandic
Original Article


From the Late Oligocene to the Late Miocene, the central Mediterranean area was characterized by the extensive deposition of phosphate-rich sediments. They are usually represented by 10 to 20-cm-thick hardgrounds made of phosphatic and glauconitic sediments containing a rich macrofossil association. This study represents the first thorough investigation of the biotic assemblage of Mediterranean phosphorites aimed at collecting new information on the environmental factors controlling their deposition. The Serravallian/Tortonian phosphatic deposits of the Salento Peninsula (“Aturia level”) have been selected for the abundance of fossil remains and special attention is given to the coral–mollusc association. Two different facies have been recognized: a basal coral rudstone that includes most of the macrofossils, superimposed by a detrital rudstone made of thin layers mainly composed of phosphatic fragments. These two facies are separated by a phosphatic crust several millimeters in thickness. The coral assemblage contains at least 17 azooxanthellate taxa belonging to four families, while the molluscs are represented by a rich gastropod fauna (26 species), associated with bivalves (18 species) and cephalopods (two species). Four distinct depositional phases have been recognized, with the coral rudstone representing the key-facies to reconstruct the onset of the “Aturia level” and the original environment of its fossil content. The composition of the coral–mollusc association has been reliably compared with present-day analog taxa, suggesting the occurrence of a heterogeneous seafloor formed by rocky substrates and accumulations of soft sediment, at around 100–350-m water depth, and under the influence of moderate-to-strong bottom currents rich in nutrients and resuspended organic matter.


Phosphatic hardground Az-corals Molluscs Miocene Central Mediterranean 



This study was funded by the “Fondi di Ateneo per la Ricerca, anno 2015″ of the Modena and Reggio Emilia University, project “Il livello fosfatico ad Aturia della Penisola Salentina: un archivio geo-paleontologico per studiare i cambiamenti climatico/ambientali del Miocene medio” and benefited from the European Science Foundation COCARDE-ERN (European Research Network). We are very grateful to Karl B. Föllmi and one anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche E GeologicheUniversità di Modena E Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Ambiente e della TerraUniversità di Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of GeologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  4. 4.Naturhistorisches Museum WienViennaAustria

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