Integrated ichnological and sedimentological analysis of a Late Cretaceous submarine channel-levee system: the Rosario Formation, Baja California, Mexico

Richard H. T. Callow, Duncan McIlroy, Ben Kneller, Mason Dykstra

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39 Citations (Scopus)


The sedimentology and ichnology of the Late Cretaceous Canyon San Fernando channel-levee system (Rosario Formation, Baja California) have been used to generate an ichnofabric model that may be used to enhance facies characterization and improve palaeoenvironmental interpretation in slope-channel systems. The Canyon San Fernando system consists of conglomerate-dominated channel axes, with thalwegs that may be bound by small confined levees. Laterally, away from the channel axis, the system consists of overbank/terrace environments with isolated conglomerate bodies and thinly bedded heterolithic turbidite sediments. The central channel belt is confined by a major channel-bounding levee composed of sandstone and siltstone turbidites. This sedimentological and ichnological model is based upon a composite lateral transect of facies from proximal (channel axis) to distal (levee) facies. Five ichnofabric associations are recognized: 1) The Ophiomorpha ichnofabric association characterizes the innermost channel and terrace settings; 2) the Scolicia ichnofabric association is typical of outer terrace and inner levee palaeoenvironments; 3) the Nereites ichnofabric association dominates the channel-bounding levee; 4) an aff. Ilmenichnus ichnofabric is found to be characteristic of bypass surfaces at the base of submarine channels; and 5) a phycosiphoniform ichnofabric association is found across almost all studied depositional environments. The distribution of ichnofabric associations and their constituent ichnofabrics provide a framework that can be used to compare turbidite channel systems in outcrop, as well as in core. The ichnofabric method used here has the potential to improve palaeoenvironmental analysis of other deep marine depositional settings, and in subsurface investigation of turbidite-hosted petroleum reservoirs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-294
Number of pages18
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
Early online date10 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship to RC from the Slopes 2 Consortium funded by BG Group, BP, ConocoPhillips, DONG, GDF Suez, Hess, Petrobras, RWE Dea, Statoil and Total. DMc acknowledges the financial support of a Canada Research Chair and an NSERC discovery grant. Zonia Palacios, Emanuel Amorer, Cristian Vallejo, Natasha Tuitt, Luke Fairweather and Mark McKinnon are thanked for field assistance. Liam Herringshaw and Chris Phillips are thanked for helpful discussion. The comments and suggestions of two anonymous reviewers and editors Ian Kane, Bill McCaffrey and Mike Mayall helped to improve the manuscript.


  • ichnology
  • ichnofabric
  • trace fossil
  • turbidite
  • channel
  • levee
  • sedimentology
  • bioturbation


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