GEOLOGICA CARPATHICA, 53, 3, BRATISLAVA, JUNE 2002
141 — 148
LOWER CARBONIFEROUS ICHNOFABRICS OF THE CULM FACIES:
A CASE STUDY OF THE MORAVICE FORMATION
(MORAVIA AND SILESIA, CZECH REPUBLIC)
, TOMÁŠ LEHOTSKÝ
and ONDŘEJ BÁBEK
Institute of Geology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Rozvojová 135, 165 00 Praha 6, Czech Republic; email@example.com
Faculty of Sciences, Palacký University, Svobody 26, 771 46 Olomouc, Czech Republic; firstname.lastname@example.org
(Manuscript received December 20, 2001; accepted in revised form April 3, 2002)
Abstract: Overall bioturbation of sediments of the Culm facies is much lower compared to the Mesozoic and Cenozoic
flysch facies. Totally reworked intervals (up to 1 cm thick) occur locally at the tops of turbiditic beds. Much more
frequently, visual equivalents of a “mottled zone” were observed at the two localities which represent a transitional
facies between “laminites” and greywacke bodies. Approximately one-half of the turbidite beds studied show a mottled
level. Planolites montanus Ichnofabric and Rhizocorallium Ichnofabric are infrequent. Most of the laminites show no
ichnofabric except cross-sections of Dictyodora, which are typically observed on bedding planes only (not in vertical
sections). Compared to the Mesozoic and Cenozoic flysch (i.e. Rhenodanubian or Carpathian flysches), the Culm facies
appears to have formed in less oxygenated settings possibly with shorter and unequally distributed colonization win-
dows. This explains the prevalence of traces with complex feeding strategies comprising chemosymbiosis and gardening
(Chondrites, Dictyodora). Their effect on the integrity of sediment (i.e. the amount of transported material) was weak.
Key words: Carboniferous, Culm facies, turbidites, ichnofabric, paleoenvironment.
The Culm facies, named after the English attribution Culm
Measures, represents a specific variety of flysch sediments,
characteristic of sedimentary basins bordering active margins
of the Variscan Orogen. The facies is characterized by rapid
influx of clastic material (e.g. Kumpera 1983). In Europe, re-
gions with Culm flysch facies include South England, Ireland,
Massif Central in France, Schwarzwald, Rhenish Slate Mts,
Harz Mts and Moravian-Silesian Zone. Due to the relatively
large extent of the Culm facies, numerous papers on its trace
fossils were published (see Štúr 1875; Patteisky 1929; Štepánek
& Geyer 1989; Pek 1986 for further literature sources).
Ichnological studies should not be limited to systematic ich-
nology and ichnofacies description; it has become clear that
parameters of paleoenvironments are much better recognized
on the basis of ichnofabric analysis than on the basis of indi-
vidual ichnotaxa or trace-fossil communities (Uchman 1999).
Ichnofabric analysis involves all structural and textural aspects
of bioturbation, and describes and interprets determinable
forms (i.e. trace fossils) as well as undeterminable biodefor-
mational structures in spatial relation to physical sedimentary
structures and textural features (e.g. Ekdale & Bromley 1983;
Bromley & Ekdale 1986; Uchman 1999).
Most of the existing studies on ichnofabric concerned shal-
low-water marine sediments (e.g. Bockelie 1991). The first
comprehensive study of the flysch ichnofabrics was included
in the volume by Uchman (1999), which concerned the Lower
Cretaceous—Eocene Rhenodanubian Flysch of the Alps. The
Culm facies represents a much older geological record of
benthic life and behaviour, and the paleoenvironments repre-
sented are apparently specific. For this reason, a special study
of the ichnofabric of the Culm facies is presented herein, based
on experience from several localities in the Moravian-Silesian
region. The aim of the contribution is to provide a case study
to be used in interpreting other occurrences of the Culm facies.
This is the first paper about ichnofabrics in deep-sea Upper
Paleozoic deposits. We believe that it may contribute to con-
sideration of ichnofabric changes in the Paleozoic, coloniza-
tion of deep-sea floor, and paleo-ecological conditions in Car-
The Culm deposits of the Moravian-Silesian region are pre-
served in an elongated, SW-NE to SSW-NNE-trending struc-
ture on the eastern margin of the Bohemian Massif. Generally,
two Culm basins are recognized in the Moravo-Silesian Zone:
the Drahany Basin and the Nízký Jeseník Basin. The fill of the
Drahany Basin has been lithostratigraphically subdivided into
three formations: the Protivanov Formation of Lower to Upper
Viséan age (Pe
Zone), the Rozstání Formation of Up-
per Viséan age (Pe
to Goniatites Go
Zone) and the Myslejo-
vice Formation of Upper Viséan age (Go
consisting of several members. The lithostratigraphic succes-
sion of the Nízký Jeseník Basin has been subdivided into four
formations: the Andělská Hora Formation of Lower Viséan to
Middle Viséan age (Pe
Zone), the Horní Benešov Formation
of Middle to Upper Viséan age (Pe
Zone), the Moravi-
ce Formation of Upper Viséan age (Go
2—3 to Go
zone) and the Hradec-Kyjovice Formation ranging from the
Upper Viséan to the lowermost part of the Namurian (Go
Subzone to E1 Zone) (Kumpera 1983; Dvořák 1994).
142 MIKULÁŠ, LEHOTSKÝ and BÁBEK
Covering the most extensive outcrop area of all formations
within the Nízký Jeseník Basin, the Moravice Formation rep-
resents a ca. 2500 m thick succession of fine-grained sand-
stones, siltstones and mudstones alternating with prominent
sandstone bodies and small conglomerate bodies. The facies
patterns of the Moravice Formation are very complex. The fol-
lowing basic facies types have been recognized and classified
according to the facies classes by Mutti et al. (1975) and Pick-
ering et al. (1989): (1) massive and/or normally graded con-
glomerates and pebbly sandstones of facies class A, several
metres thick; (2) beds of massive, coarse- to medium-grained
sandstone of facies class B, several tens of centimetres to sev-
eral metres thick, sometimes featuring coarse-tail grading, re-
peated grading or parallel stratification, some of them bearing
prominent rip-up clasts of black mudstone; (3) beds of fine- to
medium-grained sandstone, several centimetres to tens of cen-
timetres thick, with T
Bouma intervals frequent
parallel lamination, ripple-cross lamination and convolute
lamination (facies class C); (4) beds or irregular lenses of mas-
sive or faintly normally graded fine-grained sandstone and silt-
stone, several mm to about 20 cm thick, often with parallel
lamination and/or ripple-cross lamination (facies class D), and
(5) structureless or bioturbated black mudstones (facies class
E). A “zebra”-type alternation of generally light-coloured beds
and laminae of facies D and black mudstones of facies E is the
most common feature of the fine-grained flysch deposits in all
Culm-facies formations, commonly referred to as the
“laminite” (Lombard 1963; Zapletal 1970). Lithofacies char-
acteristics, sedimentary structures (erosive bases, flute casts,
tool marks, Bouma intervals) and facies stacking patterns ob-
served reflect deposition from high-density turbidity currents
(facies A and B), low-density turbidity currents (facies C, D)
and possibly also debris flows (certain beds of facies A). Dep-
osition of the fine-grained facies D may have been contributed
by bottom currents. Sediments of facies E were deposited pre-
sumably from hypopycnal flows (Mulder & Alexander 2001),
pelagic suspension, and as the uppermost divisions of the Bou-
A detailed field facies mapping of the Moravice Formation
allowed us to reveal two distinct facies associations to com-
pose this turbidite succession. The first facies association is
extremely diverse, comprising facies A, B, C, D and E orga-
nized into a few tens to a few hundred metres thick asymmet-
ric fining- and thinning-upward cycles, which alternate with
thick successions of the laminites. These cycles are interpreted
as channel-fill cycles alternating with overbank sediments, de-
posited in the inner- to middle-fan environments. The second,
overlying facies association comprises thick successions of
laminite and beds of facies D and C, which alternate with sev-
eral tens of metres to about one hundred metres thick sand-
stone lenses composed of facies C and B. The second facies
association was deposited as sandstone lobe to lobe-fringe
sediments in the outer-fan environment. As envisaged from
the present facies characteristics and supported by paleocur-
rent data and clastic provenance data (Kumpera 1983; Hartley
& Otava 2001), the Moravice Formation evolved as a longitu-
dinal, predominantly fine-grained turbidite system within a
remnant foreland basin.
Ichnoassemblages of the first facies association are domi-
nated by Dictyodora liebeana, which is accompanied by
Chondrites isp., Phycosiphon incertum, Planolites beverleyen-
sis, Planolites isp., Spirodesmos archimedeus and rare occur-
rences of Chondrites cf. intricatus, Falcichnites lo-
phoctenoides, Pilichnus isp., Protopaleodictyon isp., and
Zoophycos isp. (most of the ichnotaxa were recognized by
Zapletal & Pek 1997). The second facies association in the up-
per part of the Moravice Formation is engaged with peripher-
ies of greywacke lenses and contains Diplocraterion isp.,
Rhizocorallium isp., Dictyodora liebeana, Cosmorhaphe isp.
and Paleodictyon isp.
For the ichnofacies analysis and ichnofabric description,
ubiquitous gradual transitions between laminites of outer fans
and mostly lenticular greywacke bodies (the origin of which
can be explained as a result of “turning on” and “turning off”
individual transporting canals) are exceptionally attractive.
These intervals provide the richest finds of distinct ichnofab-
ric, apparently because substrates contrasting in colour and
grain size were available, hence also able to preserve biogenic
reworking. The ichnofabric described below comes from two
localities: Nové Těchanovice-Pollak’s galleries (Nové Těcha-
novice-Pollakovy štoly) (Patteisky 1930; Kumpera 1971) and
Olšovec (Zapletal & Pek 1987) (Fig. 1) from the transition be-
tween laminites and greywacke beds. The transitional charac-
ter of this facies enables, in our opinion, general estimation of
the biogenic reworking of the Culm facies, both towards the
laminites, and the greywackes.
Terminology and methods
The above cited paper by Uchman (1999) provided a con-
cept, terminology and methods for studying the ichnofabrics
of turbidite beds. According to Uchman (op. cit.), who uses his
experience from the Mesozoic and Cenozoic flysch sediments,
two basic zones can be distinguished: the spotty zone and the
elite zone. These zones correspond roughly to the zones of
bioturbation in Recent deep-sea sediments, that is to the mixed
layer and transitional layer, which can be preserved if “frozen”
by burial with turbidite sediments. The uppermost layer (com-
Bouma’s interval) is completely bioturbated and
usually shows “spotty” ichnofabric. This layer is called the
spotty layer (Uchman 1999).
Uchman (op. cit.) presented the spotty layer as “... character-
ized by oval spots visible against the mottled background. The
spots are cross-sections of trace fossils, commonly Planolites
or Thalassinoides. The spots differ in colour contrast and
sharpness of contours. In some layers the contrast is so low, that
the layer seems to be structureless. Additionally, in thin-bedded
flysch, some deep-tier trace fossils penetrate from the overlying
bed to the spotty layer of the underlying bed ... Lithology of the
spotty layer differs from the underlying sediment ...”.
A term suggested by Uchman (1999) to describe the biotur-
bation by elite trace fossils (i.e. the most “eye-catching” trac-
es) is the elite layer subdivided into upper elite zone, lower
elite zone, and exichnial elite zone. Ichnofabrics in these
zones are formed by deep-tier trace fossils.
LOWER CARBONIFEROUS ICHNOFABRICS OF THE CULM FACIES 143
Fig. 1. Location map.
Specific features of the Culm facies, that extremely compli-
cate identification and interpretation of the ichnofabrics, result-
ed from anchimetamorphic processes which made some subtle
laminae virtually invisible and, on the other hand, formed new
laminae along bedding planes and cleavage planes. The state-
ment of Uchman (1999) that “in some layers the contrast is so
low, that the layer seems to be structureless” applies for the
whole Culm facies. The “readability” of the structures is fur-
ther reduced by vertical and oblique synaeresis cracks filled
with clay minerals. Finally, strong lithification of the rock also
complicates the study, as it is very complicated to impossible
to prepare polished sections in the field.
For the purpose of this paper, we distinguish a “mottled
zone”, that is a conspicuously spotted rock, and a “homoge-
neous layer”, that is fully homogeneous rock which became
non-laminated probably through the effect of bioturbation. In
the “List of ichnofabrics” below, we describe individual layers
and tiers as distinctive ichnofabrics, because a complete set of
tiers can be observed only exceptionally. The studied material
includes outcrops and vertical polished sections usually 3—
15 cm thick which thereby involve one to several turbidite se-
quences. Numerous vertically cut samples can be provided
from the waste dump of the former “roofing slate” works at
the Nové Těchanovice-Pollak’s galleries. They represent a
majority of the illustrated samples. Commonly, the outcrops
do not enable study of the ichnofabric except the “elite” Rhizo-
corallium Ichnofabric, because the rock disintegrates along
List of ichnofabrics
Figs. 2A, 2C, 3I
D e s c r i p t i o n: Silt- and clay-dominated rocks without
lamination (though we would expect the lamination consider-
ing the rock composition and turbidite character of the sedi-
144 MIKULÁŠ, LEHOTSKÝ and BÁBEK
Fig. 2. Interpretative drawings of vertical sections of “roofing slate”; Nové Těchanovice-Pollakovy štoly (Nové Těchanovice-Pollak’s
galleries) locality. Scale bar = 1 cm.
LOWER CARBONIFEROUS ICHNOFABRICS OF THE CULM FACIES 145
ments). Ichnofabric index (ii; cf. Droser & Bottjer 1986) = 6.
These layers are often difficult to distinguish from primarily
non-laminated layers. The rock appears to be homogeneous in
both vertical and horizontal polished sections. These layers oc-
cur either in the uppermost parts of turbiditic beds, or at the
top of a sequence of turbidite-hemipelagite beds.
V e r t i c a l e x t e n t: Up to 1 cm, on top of turbidite beds.
O c c u r r e n c e: Very rare at both Nové Těchanovice and
Olšovec localities. Absent in most of the observed sequences.
R e l a t i o n s: The totally bioturbated rock (ii = 6) is often
cut by Chondrites, which represents a subsequent colonizer.
This produced a conspicuous visual effect. As such, this pat-
tern is described separately within the Chondrites Ichnofabric.
The reworked zone is occasionally intersected by Rhizocoral-
lium isp. and Arenicolites isp. which represent the “elite trac-
es” of the Culm facies.
Ichnofabric of the mottled zone
Figs. 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 3A, 3B, 3E, 3F, 3H, 3I
D e s c r i p t i o n: Silt- and clay-dominated substrates with
partially preserved lamination or non-laminated, showing
“spots”, which can be interpreted as cross-sections of tunnels
of Planolites montanus or Chondrites isp. The former are
light, 0.5 to 2 mm in diameter, and the latter are dark, flat-
tened, probably actively filled (cf. Fu 1991 and Uchman
1999). The tunnels ascribed to P. montanus are usually filled
with greywacke material, and are less deformed because the
greywacke mass was less compacted during the diagenesis.
Ichnofabric index = 3—6.
V e r t i c a l e x t e n t: 1—2 cm, in the uppermost parts of tur-
bidite beds, occasionally below homogeneous layers.
O c c u r r e n c e: The corresponding interval is observed at
one-third to one-half of the turbiditic beds representing a tran-
sition between laminites and greywacke part.
R e l a t i o n s: Mottled zone is occasionally cut by Rhizo-
corallium isp. or Arenicolites isp.
Planolites montanus ichnofabric
Figs. 2A, 3E
D e s c r i p t i o n: The Planolites montanus ichnofabric is a
specific case of the mottled zone. Clay- or silt-dominated sub-
strates to greywackes show relics of primary lamination, with
“spots” attributable to cross sections of tunnels of Planolites
montanus. The tunnels are usually filled with greywacke ma-
terial. Their diameter is close to 2 mm and overall flattening of
the tunnels is relatively low. Ichnofabric index = 3—4.
V e r t i c a l e x t e n t: 1—2 cm in sequences representing rapid
alternation of clay and greywacke material.
O c c u r r e n c e: Rare, found at the Nové Těchanovice lo-
R e l a t i o n s: Because of the rarity of the ichnofabric, no no-
table relationships to other ichnofabrics were observed.
Figs. 2B, 2E, 2G, 3C, 3F, 3G, 3I
D e s c r i p t i o n: The Chondrites ichnofabric is another spe-
cific case of the mottled zone. It appears as clay- to silt-domi-
nated sediments or rarely greywackes, with or without discern-
ible lamination, visually dominated by dark, flattened “spots”
which can be best interpreted as cross-sections of Chondrites
isp. The spots are a maximum of 0.5 mm in height and several
millimetres wide; tunnels sometimes look like thin primary
laminae when cut by a plane oblique to subparallel to their
axes. Ichnofabric index = 2, if lamination is discernible, or ii =
6, if developed in totally reworked background. These two sit-
uations are usually difficult to distinguish.
V e r t i c a l e x t e n t: 1—2 cm, in upper part of greywacke
beds or thin beds of silt-sized sediment.
O c c u r r e n c e: Approximately one-third of the studied tur-
bidite sequences bear the Chondrites Ichnofabric.
R e l a t i o n s: The Chondrites Ichnofabric sometimes forms
gradual transitions to reworked or mottled zone. Occasionally,
it is intersected by Rhizocorallium isp. or Arenicolites isp.
Figs. 2D, 2G, 3H
D e s c r i p t i o n: Clay- and silt-dominated sediments or
greywacke substrates with discernible lamination or, less fre-
quently, with previous bioturbation, containing spreite or tun-
nels of Rhizocorallium isp. or Arenicolites isp. Commonest
ichnofabric index = 2.
V e r t i c a l e x t e n t : Usually 3—6 cm.
O c c u r r e n c e: The occurrence of Arenicolites and Rhizo-
corallium in densities higher than representing isolated indi-
viduals is rare (about 1 % of the studied samples).
R e l a t i o n s: Rhizocorallium isp. or Arenicolites isp. were
observed to crosscut any of the above described ichnofabrics,
as they represent elite traces of the Culm facies.
Figs. 2F, 3D
D e s c r i p t i o n: Clay- to silt-dominated sediments showing
a conspicuous, virtually undisturbed lamination. Ichnofabric
index = 1. Bedding-plane partings, however, show typical sin-
uous lines having slightly different colour and/or differently
orientated clasts of mica; these are generally interpreted as
horizontal cross-sections of the ichnogenus Dictyodora (e.g.
Pek 1986). Even samples rich in clearly visible horizontal “as-
pect” of Dictyodora were several times observed to be virtual-
ly unbioturbated in vertical sections. This can be explained by
anchimetamorphic processes (e.g. shear-type displacement of
clasts in the direction parallel to lamination); as a result, the
disturbance of primary lamination by the Dictyodora trace-
maker was subsequently obliterated.
146 MIKULÁŠ, LEHOTSKÝ and BÁBEK
Fig. 3. Examples of ichnofabrics in vertical cross-sections from the Culm from the locality of Nové Těchanovice-Pollak’s galleries. Scale
bar = 1 cm. Fig. 3B corresponds to the drawing on Fig. 2F; 3E = 2A; 3F = 2B; 3G = 2C; 3H = 2D.
LOWER CARBONIFEROUS ICHNOFABRICS OF THE CULM FACIES 147
O c c u r r e n c e: Relatively frequent in laminites (several per
cent of laminites at Nové Těchanovice locality show Dictyo-
dora isp. on bedding planes).
R e l a t i o n s: Dictyodora is most often the only preserved
Figs. 2F, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3F, 3G
D e s c r i p t i o n: Greywackes, siltstones and claystones
showing undisturbed lamination and no ichnologic features on
bedding planes. Ichnofabric index = 1.
V e r t i c a l e x t e n t: Usually several centimetres in the
described facies (i.e. transition between laminites and
greywackes), depending on the thickness of the turbidite se-
O c c u r r e n c e: More than 50 % of samples from the
Conclusions – Sedimentological and
Compared to the Rheno-Danubian (Uchman 1999) and to
the Carpathian Cretaceous to Eocene flysch (Uchman 1998),
the degree of bioturbation of the Culm facies is very low (Fig.
4). Ichnofabrics in deep-sea Paleozoic deposits have not been
studied yet, which makes the comparison of the Culm facies to
other Paleozoic flysches very problematic. Numerous papers,
however, deal with discernible trace fossils collected from Pa-
leozoic deep-sea sediments. Crimes & Crossley (1991) de-
scribed a very diverse ichnoassemblage from the Silurian fly-
sch of Wales (Aberystwyth area). Besides graphoglyptids, the
ichnoassemblage also contains effective bioturbators such as
Planolites and Nereites. Similarly, Clark & Chamberlain
(1973) described diverse deep-sea traces from the Paleozoic
Oquirrah Basin of central Utah. Pickerill et al. (1988) reported
on Late Ordovician-Early Silurian flysch of the Matapedia
Group (Canada) and discovered a rich ichnoassemblage show-
ing numerous elements common to the Culm facies (e.g. Dic-
tyodora). Therefore, we may presume that the Moravian-Sile-
sian Culm facies are rather less bioturbated than several other
deep-sea deposits of the Paleozoic. However, we have to stress
that the diversity of ichnoassemblage or density of trace fossils
on bedding planes does not necessarily mean a high degree of
The reasons for a low degree of bioturbation compared to
the Mesozoic and Cenozioc flysches may be as follows:
1. Much older age of the Culm facies; invertebrates had not
colonized all deep-sea substrates, dysoxic and/or current-ex-
posed settings yet or the depth of bioturbation was low (cf.
Bottjer & Droser 1992). This possible explanation should be
tested by ichnofabric studies of other Paleozoic flysch se-
quences, especially those rich in trace fossils.
2. Extreme dynamics of the Culm facies, resulting in shorter
and unequally distributed (both spatially and temporally) colo-
nization windows, may be a reason for low bioturbation of
some parts of the Culm facies. However, as the recruitment of
deep-sea fauna takes several years at maximum (Uchman pers.
commun. 2002), we cannot presume that the frequency of dep-
ositional events was generally higher in all the Culm facies.
3. Low oxygen content. The level of nutrients both in the
turbidites and in the background sediment can be presumed
relatively high, as the sediments are dark. The problem of oxy-
genation is commonly applied for dark facies (cf. Mikuláš
1992 and references therein). Layers homogenized by sedi-
ment-feeders (cf. Bromley 1996) are rare; nevertheless, feed-
ing on sediment seems to be the most important factor of the
overall bioturbation (Planolites montanus). Burrows of filter-
feeders are rare. The relatively most frequent group falls to the
category of opportunistic, complex feeding strategies, which
may include chemosymbiosis and gardening (Chondrites, Dic-
tyodora; cf. Mikuláš 1997 and references therein).
4. Constraints resulting from metamorphism. No special
study dealing with effect of various degrees of metamorphism
on preservation of trace fossils have been published yet, but
we may presume that the anchimetamorphic processes have
reduced both the spectrum of trace fossils visible on bedding
planes and the “readability” of subtle ichnofabric features.
Acknowledgment: The research was supported by the Grant
Agency of the Czech Republic (Grant No. 205/00/1118). The
paper is a part of the research program of the Institute of Geol-
ogy, AS CR (No. CZK-Z3 013 912). Thanks are due to J.
Brožek and M. Mazuch for technical help. J. Adamovič kindly
read an early draft of the manuscript. The paper gained by crit-
ical comments by Prof. Alfred Uchman, Prof. Adolf Seilacher,
and Dr. Jozef Michalík.
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si. – mudstones + siltstones; si. + sa. – siltstones, sandstones,
greywackes; prim. – primary lamination; homog. – homogeneous.
148 MIKULÁŠ, LEHOTSKÝ and BÁBEK
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