GEOLOGICA CARPATHICA, 54, 1, BRATISLAVA, FEBRUARY 2003
41 — 52
AN EARLY PANNONIAN (LATE MIOCENE) TRANSGRESSION
IN THE NORTHERN VIENNA BASIN.
THE PALEOECOLOGICAL FEEDBACK
, JOHANNA KOVAR-EDER
, SLAVOMÍR NEHYBA
MARGIT STRÖBITZER- HERMANN
, JÜRGEN SCHWARZ
, JAN WÓJCICKI
and IRENE ZORN
Natural History Museum, Geological-Paleontological Department, Burgring 7, 1014 Vienna, Austria
Department of Geology and Paleontology, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic
Habsburgerallee 106, D-60385, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
W. Szafer Institute for Botany, Polish Academy of Sciences, Lubicz 46, PL-31512 Kraków, Poland
Geological Survey, Rasumofskygasse 23, Postfach 127, A-1031 Vienna, Austria
(Manuscript received April 24, 2002; accepted in revised form October 3, 2002)
Abstract: The studied sections are situated on the northwestern margin of the Vienna Basin. They represent a character-
istic marginal facies of Lake Pannon in the late Miocene Pannonian stage. Biofacies as well as lithofacies point to a
transgressive event resulting in the shift from deltaic, riverine conditions to the formation of freshwater marshes and
lakes and, finally, in the deposition of offshore clays. Biostratigraphically, the logged sequences correspond to the
regional Pannonian mollusc “zone” C. The extraordinarily fine-scaled paleoecological resolution might serve as a basis
for a correlation of 4th order changes reported from basinal settings of the northern Vienna Basin. Thus the rapid facies
succession on the northwestern margin of the Vienna Basin is interpreted as being linked to major lake level changes
rather than to solely local changes in the riverine system.
Key words: Late Miocene, Pannonian, Lake Pannon, Northern Vienna Basin, hydrophytes, paleoecology.
The locality of Pellendorf is situated in the political district of
Mistelbach in Lower Austria (ÖK 1:50,000, sheets 41, 24). At
the locality, Late Miocene gravels and sands are exploited in
two pits (Fig. 1). Two sections have been logged in the small-
er pit in the NW (logs 1 and 2 sand pit “Max”; N 16° 32’ 08’’,
E 48° 30’ 00’’; No. 041/228 according to the register of Min-
eral Resources of the Austrian Geological Survey); the third
log is positioned in the southeastern pit (log 3 gravel pit
“Semrad”; N 16° 32’ 12’’, E 48° 29’ 54’’; No. 041/227 ac-
cording to the register of Mineral Resources of the Austrian
Geological Survey). The composite thickness of the sections
measures 35 m.
The outcrop lies on the Kronberg uplifted block, close to its
northwestern margin, which is formed by the Bisamberg fault-
zone. Despite their proximity to this fault, the deposits seem
to have been little affected by postsedimentary tectonic activi-
ties, although some minor listric faults can be detected
throughout the outcrop area. In contrast, the NW-SE decrease
of thickness of units 2 and 3 (see below) may be explained by
synsedimentary activity of the fault-zone.
The area has been studied by Grill (1968), who recognized
the gravel sequence as part of the Hollabrunn-Mistelbach For-
mation and mapped it as Lower Pannonian (Fig. 2). This dat-
ing was based mainly on typical molluscs of the Pannonian
“zones” B and C sensu Papp (1951, 1953), which were found
along the northern margin of the Kronberg uplifted block. The
dating was confirmed by Lueger (1981), who provided data
on the landsnail fauna of the Hollabrunn-Mistelbach Forma-
tion of the Mistelbach uplifted block and who also integrated
the brackish mollusc fauna in his biostratigraphic conclusions.
Within the three measured sections, five characteristic litho-
facies can be logged, which are also characterized by distinct
biofacies (Fig. 3). The analysis of the various paleocommuni-
ties allows a new approach towards the reconstruction of the
facies shifts within coastal environments, during a transgres-
sive phase in the northern Vienna Basin.
Fig. 1. Geographical position of the investigated outcrops in Lower
42 HARZHAUSER et al.
With the exception of the Characeae gyrogonites the plant
material is preserved as oxidized imprints. Especially floating
and submerged leaves of aquatic plants are covered by a calci-
um-rich layer. From washed samples a few poorly preserved
coalified fruits were collected.
Molluscs were collected in the field or washed from bulk
samples. The preservation of the macrofauna is generally rath-
er poor due to the dissolution of aragonite.
The various groups of organisms were identified by the fol-
lowing authors: Harzhauser – Mollusca, Zorn – Ostracoda,
Schwarz – Characeae, Wójcicki – Trapa and Hemitrapa
fruits, Kovar-Eder – remaining plant taxa.
The material is kept in the collection of the Geological-Pa-
leontological Department of the Natural History Museum Vi-
enna (Plants coll. file Nos. 1997B0019, 1999B0056,
1999B0056/0000; Inv. NHMW2000z0066/0001-0014). A
complete list of the documented taxa is presented in Table 1.
Lithological and paleontological description
The composite sections of the two outcrops reveal 5 distinct
lithological units (Fig. 4). In the following, these depositional
entities are briefly described and typical fossils are introduced.
Unit 1: Hollabrunn-Mistelbach Formation
The more than 12 m thick unit is dominated by layers of
cross-bedded, polymict gravels, alternating with sandy lay-
ers and rare silt beds. Gravel and sandy gravel beds appear
mainly as broad, shallow channels. Bounding surfaces of the
lower order defining individual beds can be followed over a
distance of almost 100 m. Compound bedding is typical;
planar cross-bedding was recognized within gravels. Both
channel direction and foreset aggradations reflect transport
generally to the E and SE. Gravels are pebble supported to
matrix supported. The pebbles are both rounded and suban-
gular with maximum diameter of about 5 cm. Subordinate
sandy interbeds with a thickness of about 40 cm can be rec-
ognized within gravels. Sands are medium- to fine-grained.
Low-angle cross-bedding was recognized within sands.
They are relatively well sorted. Trace fossils (subvertical
burrows) are rare.
Scattered valves of the bivalves Plicatiforma latisulca and
Venerupis (Paphirus) gregarius, as well as rare shells of the
gastropod Granulolabium bicinctum, indicate some rework-
ing of Sarmatian fauna deriving from the upper Ervilia
“zone”. Additionally, sparse lithoclasts of up to 30 cm diame-
ter with abundant moulds of Granulolabium sp., floating
within the pebbles, also reflect reworking of lithified Sarma-
tian sediments. Finally, a single, well-rounded valve of Cras-
sostrea gryphoides probably derives from Karpatian near-
Fig. 2. Geological map of the northern Vienna Basin modified after Grill (1968). The distribution of Early Pannonian deposits roughly reflects
the course of the riverine system which discharged into Lake Pannon. The white star indicates the position of the investigated outcrops.
AN EARLY PANNONIAN TRANSGRESSION IN THE VIENNA BASIN 43
range in Vienna Basin
Granulolabium bicinctum (Brocchi)
Eggenburgian – Sarmatian
Melanopsis bouei (Ferussac)
Sarmatian – Pannonian F
Tinnyea escheri (Brongniart)
Stenothyrella ovoidea (Pavlovic)
Badenian – Pannonian H
Bithynia jurinaci Brusina
freshw./quiet-moderately agitated Pannonian C – Pannonian H
Radix cf. cucuronensis (Fontannes)
? – Pannonian H
Carychium pachychilus Sandberger
Sarmatian – Pannonian H
Gastrocopta cf. acuminata (Klein)
Badenian – Pannonian H
Acanthinula cf. trochulus (Sandberger)
Pannonian D – Pannonian H
Semilimax intermedius (Reuss)
Eggenburg. – Pannonian E
Cepaea cf. etelkae (Halavats)
Pannonian B – Pannonian H
Helicidae indet. [cf. Cepaea]
Plicatiforma latisulca (Münster)
Venerupis (Paphirus) gregarius (Partsch)
Crassostrea gryphoides (Schlotheim)
Eggenburgian – Sarmatian
Congeria partschi partschi Czjzek
Pannonian C – Pannonian D
Limnocardiidae indet. sp. 1
Limnocardiidae indet. sp. 2
Unio atavus Partsch
Pannonian C – Pannonian E
Anodonta sp. 1
? Anodonta sp. 2
abundance lower part of
unit 3 A-G
abundance upper part of unit
3, I-J, gravel pit ”Semrad”
Nitellopsis (Tectochara) majoriformis (Papp)
Stephanochara aff. rochettiana (Heer) Feist-Castel
Ceratophyllum schrotzburgense Hantke (leaves,
almost entire plants, partly covered with a calcium-
abundant in thin layers
Ceratophyllum sp. (fruit imprints)
Nymphaeaceae indet. (rhizome fragments)
abundant in thin layers
Hemitrapa trapelloidea Miki
abundant in thin layers
Trapa pellendorfensis Wójcicki & Kovar-Eder (fruit
abundant in thin layers
Mikia pellendorfensis Kovar-Eder & Wójcicki
abundant in thin layers
Decodon sp. (leaves)
very abundant, monodominant
Carpolithus gen. et sp. indet.
Potamogeton sp. (fruit imprints/coalified)
Sparganium sp. (fruit imprint)
Taxodium dubium (Sternberg) Heer
monodominant in a thin layer in
the gravel pit ”Semrad”
Ulmus carpinoides Göppert emend. Menzel
Populus balsamoides Göppert
Populus populina (Brongniart) Knobloch
Populus mutabilis Heer
Smilax sagittifera Heer emend. Hantke
one specimen in a thin layer in
the gravel pit ”Semrad”
? Fagus sp.
Acer vel Liquidambar sp.
1) field observation only, no material collected.
Table 1: A list of all documented moluscs and plants from the section Pellendorf.
44 HARZHAUSER et al.
shore deposits, which are widespread in the adjacent Kor-
Due to the absence of index fossils, such as Mytilopsis orni-
thosis (Brusina) or Melanopsis impressa Klein, the biostrati-
graphic correlation of the unit is difficult at the locality. None-
theless, equivalent deposits on the Mistelbach and Kronberg
uplifted blocks represent the Hollabrunn-Mistelbach Forma-
tion and were dated to the Pannonian “zone” B/C by Grill
(1968) and Lueger (1981). According to Roetzel et al. (1999)
most of the formation was deposited during the Pannonian
“zone” C, on the basis of molluscs and mammal faunas.
Unit 2: Sand with terrestrial gastropods
In the southeastern section, the underlying gravelly unit dis-
plays a slight fining upwards, reflected by the predominance
of sandy layers in the uppermost 2 m of the unit. This part is
overlain by about 2 m of fine- to medium-sand with high silt
content. In the corresponding section in the northwest, this
unit is markedly thicker, attaining a thickness of at least 12 m.
Its basal part consists of cross-bedded fine sands with thin
lenses and irregular horizons (max. 10 cm thick) of gravels
with a maximum pebble diameter of about 5 cm. Erosional
relics of mudstone float within the sands. The sedimentary
structure resembles a “cut and fill”. Relics of roots were rec-
Fig. 3. Sketch of the outcrop situation of two pits during the year 2000. The units differentiated in this paper are indicated by different
shadings (not to scale, due to perspective bias). The thickness of the units can be deduced from the logs in Fig. 3. “T” marks the position
of the Taxodium-bearing layers.
ognized locally. Upsection, 2 m of rippled fine sands and, fi-
nally, horizontally laminated or low angle cross-bedded fine-
sands follow. Thin (few cm thick) gravel lags form the base of
the sets (pebbles max. 1 cm in diameter). The top part of the
unit is formed by horizontally laminated very fine sand to silt
of about 1 m thickness.
In both sections, low dip-angle cross-bedding and trough-
bedding can be observed. In situ roots occur only in the north-
western section. Besides analogous lithology, the correlation
of the beds is confirmed by the striking abundance of terrestri-
al gastropods. Reworked Sarmatian is not represented by mol-
luscs as in unit 1 but by rare tests of foraminifers (Elphidium
ssp.). In contrast to the well-preserved landsnails, these re-
worked elements show strong limonitic colouring.
Unit 3: Hydrophyte-pelite
In the southeastern gravel pit “Semrad”, the sandy unit 2 is
overlain by about 2.3 m of interbedded silt and clay with scat-
tered fine-sand layers. Towards the northwest this unit thick-
ens considerably, attaining more than 5 m thickness in the
sand pit “Max”. The unit is characterized by clayey mudstone
beds with highly subordinate sandy interbeds. Mudstones are
horizontally bedded. High contents of plant remnants are very
characteristic. Fine micaceous sands are well sorted and form
AN EARLY PANNONIAN TRANSGRESSION IN THE VIENNA BASIN 45
Fig. 4. Three composite logs of
the investigated sections. Sym-
bols mark the occurrence of char-
acteristic fossils. A correlation of
the logs with the proposed units in
Fig. 2 is warranted by the legend-
bar aside each log. The boundary
between units 4 and 5 corresponds
more or less to a single topo-
46 HARZHAUSER et al.
generally tabular beds of max. 15 cm thickness. Sands are
horizontally bedded and well sorted. At the base of this unit,
marl clasts of about 10 cm diameter are common.
The most characteristic feature of this unit is the hydro-
phyte-rich flora, which enables the correlation of the three
outcrops. The fossil preservation indicates parautochthonous
The hydrophyte pelite can be subdivided into two parts.
The lower – slightly coarser grained – part (layers A—G in
Fig. 5) bears the first reported fossil mass-occurrence of Dec-
odon leaves, although Decodon leaves are common at various
European sites (Kvaček & Sakala 1999). Partly disintegrating
fruits (Carpolithus gen. et sp. indet.), petioles and slender
stem fragments, as well as clusters of poplar leaves (Populus
populina and P. mutabilis), occur occasionally there.
The upper part (layers I—J in Fig. 5) is diverse in aquatic
plants: Nitellopsis (Tectochara) majoriformis and Stephano-
chara aff. rochettiana, Nymphaeaceae – rhizomes, Cerato-
phyllum schrotzburgense and Ceratophyllum sp. – fruits,
Hemitrapa trapelloidea and Trapa pellendorfensis – nuts,
Mikia pellendorfensis – leaves, Potamogeton sp., and cf.
Sparganium sp. (Kovar-Eder et al. submitted). These remains
are mainly concentrated in several thin, marly layers, but to a
lesser extent also occur between them. Other (woody) taxa are
Among the molluscs the gastropod Bithynia jurinaci and
anodontid bivalves are most abundant. In contrast to the un-
derlying unit, remains of helicids are rare, usually fractured,
and occur mainly in the lower parts of the unit.
An only locally exposed silty/clayey layer in the northern
part of the gravel pit “Semrad” yielded rich findings of Taxo-
dium dubium twigs (monodominant) and isolated Taxodium
cone scales as well as a leaf of Smilax sagittifera. Judging
from the position in this log (indicated by “T” in Fig. 3) this
layer can be correlated to the hydrophyte pelite, possibly to its
Unit 4: Interbedded mudstone
The silty unit 3 passes without marked lithological changes
into a unit of interbedded mudstone with sand and silt layers.
Only the abrupt absence of hydrophyte-bearing layers allows
a good separation of the base of unit 4. In the southeastern
part of the investigated area this unit attains about 11 m in
thickness, but reaches up to about 12 m towards the north-
Generally, the unit displays a slight coarsening upwards
trend, resulting in the predominance of silty layers towards
the top. Basal mudstones are massive, lacking any distinct
sedimentary structures, whereas horizontal lamination be-
comes common in the upper part of the unit. There, several
sandy interbeds were recognized within the mudstones. The
content of sand slightly rises at the top of the profile. Sands
are fine-grained, well sorted, and micaceous. Horizontal bed-
ding is the typical internal feature of sands, but climbing rip-
ples are also observed in this upper part.
The basal part is poor in macrofossils, with only scattered
and poorly preserved leaf fragments, rare Tinnyea escheri,
unionids and helicids. Upsection follows an interbedded sub-
unit with cross-bedded fine- to medium-sand and silt with
abundant Melanopsis bouei, Unio atavus, and Tinnyea es-
cheri. Finally, in the top of unit 4, sand, clay and silt are inter-
bedded, bearing again Melanopsis bouei, Unio atavus and
Tinnyea escheri; occasionally, in situ stems of about 5 mm di-
ameter and scattered leaf-fragments are also present. Cross-
bedding is missing in this part of the unit.
Unit 5: Congeria partschi – clay
All sections are topped by up to 5 m of dark, greenish, blu-
ish and greyish clay with scattered bivalves. This unit repre-
Fig. 5. Detail of log 1. The drawing documents the different inven-
tory of the hydrophyte-bearing levels of subunits A to J. Note clear
change from Decodon-dominated assemblages towards Ceratophyl-
lum-dominated layers. The cyclicity in the amalgamation of plant-
bearing layers is well developed in subunit I but indistinct in the over-
lying part. The shift from Decodon-, Trapa- and axes-bearing strata
towards Ceratophyllum- and Nymphaeaceae-yielding layers in sub-
unit J may reflect a slight deepening of the depositional environment.
AN EARLY PANNONIAN TRANSGRESSION IN THE VIENNA BASIN 47
sents the youngest Miocene deposit in the investigation area
and is usually covered by a thin layer of Quaternary soil. Two
layers of well-sorted fine- to medium-sand are intercalated in
the otherwise rather homogeneous clay. Generally, the unit is
poor in macrofossils, but bears small clusters of articulated
Congeria partschi. Similarly, rare Limnocardium ssp. appear
in clusters, being mainly represented by gaping but still artic-
ulated valves. Among the rich ostracod fauna, Hungarocypris
auriculata is most abundant along with Loxoconcha sp., Am-
plocypris sp., Leptocythere sp. and Aurilia sp.
The biostratigraphic significance of the terrestrial gastro-
pods in unit 2 is rather low. The association corresponds fully
to the Pannonian faunas described by Lueger (1981, 1985),
therefore a Sarmatian age can be excluded. Similar faunas
from the Hollabrunn-Mistelbach Formation are dated to the
Pannonian “zones” B and C on the basis of typical melanop-
sids and congerias and the characteristic morphotype of Ce-
paea etelkae (Lueger 1981).
The top unit can be dated by Congeria partschi partschi,
which is restricted to the Pannonian “zones” C and D in the
northern Vienna Basin (Papp 1953). It is not possible to sepa-
rate these two “zones” any further only on basis of the occur-
rence of Congeria partschi partschi. A dating to “zone” C is
supported by the absence of large congerias typical for “zone”
D, such as Congeria subglobosa. In addition, the size and
shape of the specimens differ from those of “zone” D, when
the species had its optimum (Papp 1951).
A further hint towards “zone” C derives from the occur-
rence of Hungarocypris auriculata (Reuss), which is restrict-
ed to the early Pannonian “zones” A—C. Correspondingly,
Grill (1968) also mapped the area as Lower Pannonian
The biostratigraphic resolution of the extraordinary flora,
however, is rather poor. The stratum typicum of Nitellopsis
(T.) majoriformis in Eichkogel near Mödling (Papp 1951) is
dated to “zone” H and correlated to the mammal stage MN 11
(Bruijn et al. 1992). Further occurrences are described from
Turkey (Mädler & Staesche 1979). Some of them can be cor-
related to the mammal stages MN 6, 9, and 15 (Bruijn et al.
1992). Therefore, they cannot contribute to a more detailed lo-
cal dating. Stephanochara rochettiana is documented from
the Late Chattian (MP 30, Late Oligocene) to the Middle Mi-
ocene (possibly until mammal zone MN 7; Mädler & Staesche
1979). The appearance of an “affine” form of S. rochettiana in
the Pannonian may be interpreted as a further evolutionary de-
The presence and abundance of Trapa is characteristic of
the Pannonian in Austria. In the last years, numerous water-
nut-bearing localities have been discovered in the Styrian and
the Molasse Basins. However, this is the first record of Hemi-
trapa from Austria and the first one of H. trapelloidea from
Europe. H. heissigii Gregor, however, is known from several
localities in Southern Germany (Gregor 1982; Gregor &
Schmid 1983; Riederle & Gregor 1997; Schmitt & Butzmann
1997; Riederle 1997) which are correlated (partly by mam-
mals, partly by regional geology) to the Mittlere Serie Dehms,
mammal stages MN 5 upper part/MN 6, correlated to the Bad-
enian (Böhme et al. 2002, and pers. commun. K. Heissig
2002). Note that the lack of Trapa at these sites is more proba-
bly stratigraphically based than facies biased. In fact, in Pel-
lendorf we are dealing with the first definitive co-occurrence
of Trapa and Hemitrapa (even on the same bedding-planes)
(Kovar-Eder et al. submitted).
In conclusion, the co-occurrence of the ostracod Hungaro-
cypris auriculata and the bivalve Congeria partschi partschi
clearly dates the top unit into the Pannonian “zone” C. From a
strict biostratigraphic point of view the underlying units could
be correlated with the “zones” B or C. The absence of the oth-
erwise ubiquitous index fossils of “zone” B (Melanopsis im-
pressa, Mytilopsis ornithopsis) renders a dating to “zone” B
very unlikely. In addition, the Melanopsis bouei—Tinnyea es-
cheri assemblage of unit 4 is unknown from “zone” B, but is
commonly detected in the “zones” C and D in the Vienna Ba-
sin and the Eisenstadt Sopron Basin (own observation
The gravel and sand beds of unit 1 are interpreted as distrib-
utary channels of the coarse-grained delta (braided delta)
close to the delta front. Proximity to the shoreline is also sup-
ported by the total absence of any deposits of the interdistrib-
utary area. The close proximity is a characteristic feature of
most localities of the Hollabrunn-Mistelbach Formation in the
surroundings of Mistelbach. The deposits derive from a fluvi-
al system which invaded the northern Vienna Basin from the
The layers of gravels recognized within unit 2 reflect a ge-
netic and spatial relation of unit 1 and 2. Unit 2 is a product of
deposition in the interdistributary area close to the distributary
channels (levees, crevasses). Gravels can be interpreted as lag
horizons reflecting the maximum erosion during floods.
Broad erosional channels were cut in the flat interdistributary
area and filled with sands. Alternation of high and low dis-
charge is reflected by structures of the upper flow regime and
the occurrence of root traces and Ca concretions, which might
be reworked caliche.
Aside from reworked Sarmatian foraminifers, the fauna of
unit 2 consists nearly exclusively of gastropods, which mainly
derive from the adjacent woodland habitats bordering the riv-
er. This is reflected by the abundance of Carychium pachychi-
lus and Semilimax intermedius. Carychiidae indicate humid
lakeside environments and moist foliage (Lueger 1981; Har-
beck 1996). Similarly, the late Neogene representatives of
Semilimax are interpreted by Binder (1977) and Lueger
(1981) as inhabitants of humid woodland areas. Semilimax
feeds on plants, various decaying organic matter, and on small
worms. Correspondingly, Acanthinula aculeata, as an extant
48 HARZHAUSER et al.
relative of Acanthinula cf. trochulus, prefers woodland envi-
ronments, where it takes shelter in shrubs or within the foliage
(Ložek 1964; Fechter & Falkner 1989).
The other taxa, such as the abundant Cepaea cf. etelkae,
may also derive from the less humid hinterland. Cepaea set-
tles humid and rather arid environments and therefore cannot
be used as facies indicator. According to Lueger (1981), Ce-
paea etelkae might have lived in the hinterland at some dis-
tance from the swampy, riverine biotas. Distant relatives of
Gastrocopta acuminata such as Gastrocopta theeli and Gas-
trocopta serotina are considered by Ložek (1964) to prefer
woodland and wooded steppe areas as well as open terrestrial
No littoral elements of Lake Pannon, such as Caspia, Hy-
drobia, or Micromelania, are found in this unit, indicating
strictly freshwater conditions. On the other hand, freshwater
taxa are also rare. Only Bithynia jurinaci Brusina is recorded
on the basis of a single operculum. This species is thought to
prefer standing waters of lakes and to avoid agitated water. As
documented by the sediment structures, swift water caused
conditions which were probably not suitable for the establish-
ment of dense vegetation and thus herbivorous molluscs such
as Bithynia are scarce; lymnaeids and planorbids are entirely
This unit is the result of quiet deposition within the inner
distributary area (distal in relation to distributary channels).
Sandy interbeds reflect major floods (channel overflow) and
short periods of more agitated waters.
The mollusc fauna and the flora indicate quiet freshwater
marshland or a shallow swampy lake habitat. Most of the ex-
tant relatives of the recorded taxa avoid agitated water and
shun brackish waters.
The living representatives of Anodonta are adapted to slow-
ly running water of small rivers (e.g. Anodonta anatina) as
well as to quiet lake environments like Anodonta cygnea. In
respect to the lithology, the Pellendorf species seems to repre-
sent rather an inhabitant of muddy bottoms in quiet water. The
extremely abundant Bithyniidae are detritus-feeding and/or
browsing freshwater molluscs that either scrape with their rad-
ula or are ciliary feeders (Frömming 1956; Gray 1988). They
display their maximum abundance in shallow freshwater
around 2—3 m depth, settling especially quiet or little agitated
waters with rich vegetation. Some species, however, can toler-
ate salinities up to 8—11 ‰ (Korpás-Hódi 1983). At Pellen-
dorf the species is most abundant in layers with charophyte
gyrogonites. Correspondingly, Bithynia jurinaci is associated
with gyrogonites at the sections Eichkogel, Götzendorf, Stix-
neusiedl, and Leobersdorf (Papp 1951; Rögl et al. 1993; Troll
Thus, Bithynia jurinaci seems to have lived in large popula-
tions in very shallow, quiet water within charophyte-“mead-
ows”. Similarly, the planorbids and Radix cf. cucuronensis
bear witness to rich hydrophyte vegetation in a quiet to mod-
erately agitated, shallow freshwater habitat. The representa-
tives of Radix feed on algae and decaying plant debris but
would accept carrion as well.
The scarcity of landsnails, represented only by rare frag-
ments of helicids, may also point towards rather low energetic
conditions, which allowed only little influx from riverine en-
vironments and from the hinterland.
The unit has been investigated and logged in detail (sub-
units A—J in Fig. 5). Additionally, in subunits G—J each layer
with plant accumulations was precisely studied and its content
documented. 41 layers were observed in these subunits. Dec-
odon is the most characteristic element in the basal, slightly
coarser-grained part (subunits A—G). Upsection, in subunits
G—I, 28 layers could be separated; they are characterized by
mass-occurrences of Decodon leaves. The only modern spe-
cies, Decodon verticillatus, forms large monospecific stands,
for example in coastal freshwater marshes in the southeast of
the US. The lower plant parts are submerged, partly floating,
while the higher ones are emergent. Additionally, accumula-
tions of stems predominate in subunit I. Some kind of cyclici-
ty is documented by a conspicuous “crowding” of the layers
into four groups of 7, 7, 6, and 8 layers, respectively. We re-
frain from interpreting this remarkable cyclicity in a wider
context, although future investigations might offer a key for
this interesting feature.
The subunits (I—J) differ distinctly in their species composi-
tion. Rooted plants with submerged and floating leaves (Nym-
phaeaceae, Trapa, Potamogeton) indicate shallow and quiet
water conditions. Although the true affinity of Mikia pellen-
dorfensis is still unclear (Kovar-Eder et al. submitted), these
leaves undoubtedly represent long-petiolate floating leaves of
a possibly rooted plant. Entirely submerged and free-swim-
ming (sometimes fixed on the ground by “rhizoids”) is Cer-
atophyllum. The Characeae may have lived in depths of up to
several meters. They easily succumb to competition by phan-
erogams and, if light conditions permit, are competitive in
deeper waters. A high pH-value (hard water) is indicated by
the Characeae and by the calcium-rich coat mainly on Cerato-
phyllum schrotzburgense shoots and Mikia pellendorfensis
leaves. The reduction of CO
due to photosynthetic plant ac-
tivity causes calcium carbonate precipitation on the ground
and on submerged or floating plant organs. On C. schrotzbur-
gense this layer bears the outlines of the epidermal cells in
turgescent state, thus indicating its precipitation during the
plant’s life-time. Although well known from modern hydro-
phytes, this phenomenon was first reported from the fossil
record on Potamogeton leaves from Wörth and Reith in the
eastern Styrian Basin (Pannonian C, Kovar-Eder & Krainer
1990, 1992). Ceratophyllum and Trapa point to a nutrient-
rich environment. For the Characeae, Nymphaeaceae, and
Potamogeton this is less clear, because their modern species
include indicators of eutrophic and oligotrophic conditions.
Although Trapa prefers calcium-poor conditions, the Charac-
eae need calcium-rich waters or waters with a high content of
dissolved calcium carbonate.
Finally, planorbid gastropods are mainly found in this sub-
unit J. The cyclicity observed in layers G to I switches to-
wards a much looser amalgamation of layers in subunit J.
Usually the cycles of subunit J do not exceed 3 layers per cy-
cle (of 3 or 5 cycles).
The Characeae, too, indicate periodic changes of the eco-
logical parameters: Nitellopsis (T.) majoriformis in subunit I
AN EARLY PANNONIAN TRANSGRESSION IN THE VIENNA BASIN 49
is represented by well-calcified, mature gyrogonites, docu-
menting favourable conditions for completing the reproduc-
tion phase. Those from subunit J are immature, pointing to a
deficit during the calcification process.
Taxodium dubium, Populus balsamoides, P. mutabilis, P.
populina, and Ulmus carpinoides are characteristic azonal
tree taxa, and Smilax sagittifera, a vine, documents various
wetland habitats, possibly riparian forests, in the wider sur-
roundings of Lake Pannon.
The Volga delta in the Astrakhanskiy Biosphere Reserves
(N margin of the Caspian Sea) offers a mosaic pattern of reed
and aquatic habitats that may serve as a modern analogue in
landscape pattern. Many of the aquatic plants such as the
Characeae, Nymphaeaceae, Ceratophyllum, Trapa, and Pota-
mogeton are documented in the vegetation types differentiated
there (Baldina et al. 2001). A difference from the modern Vol-
ga delta is the documentation of fossil genera (Hemitrapa,
Mikia) and the presence of Decodon, which is restricted now-
adays to the southeast of the US.
The abrupt termination of the hydrophyte-rich layers indi-
cates a change of the sedimentary environment towards la-
goonal conditions with an alternation of quiet deposition and
upper flow regime. Generally, transport and deposition took
place under slightly higher energetic conditions compared to
The rare and poorly preserved leaf remains in this unit doc-
ument tree taxa from riparian and/or hinterland forests.
A paleoecological interpretation of this unit based on the
mollusc fauna is difficult due to the contradictory data on the
ecological requirements of the documented molluscs in the lit-
The frequent Tinnyea seems to have been a strictly freshwa-
ter-bound form from swift fluvial environments (Lueger 1980;
Müller et al. 1999; Harzhauser et al. 2002). This interpretation
is strongly supported by the fact that all recent representatives
of the related genera Melanatria, Brotia, and Potadoma are
exclusively freshwater dwellers, which favour riverine envi-
ronments. Furthermore, Brotia is rarely found in quiet water
(Brandt 1974). Similarly, Melanopsis bouei is interpreted by
Geary et al. (1989) as a freshwater dweller, which might also
have tolerated slightly higher salinities. Melanopsis sturi, as a
direct descendant of Melanopsis bouei, is reported by Korpás-
Hódi (1983) from lagoonal, partly swampy, quiet-water fa-
cies, which indicate oligohaline to freshwater conditions. In
respect to the highly variable ornamentation of the bouei-
group, which often coincides with different lithofacies, the an-
imals seem to have lived both in quiet habitats and in agitated
Unio atavus is often found associated with Tinnyea escheri
(Harzhauser & Kowalke 2002; Lueger 1977), pointing also
towards freshwater conditions. According to Lueger (1980),
Unio atavus preferred slowly running rivers. At Pellendorf,
however, the articulation of the valves of Unio atavus points
to a rather short transport. In contrast, Korpás-Hódi (1983)
and Müller & Szónoky (1990) interpret the descendant Unio
mihanovici as an inhabitant of shallow, aerated and agitated
oligohaline water with salinities up to 3 ‰.
A comparable, but more diverse association is presented by
Korpás-Hódi (1983) as the Viviparus sadleri—Unio atavus pa-
leoassociation. This association bears species of the genera
Unio and Melanopsis in common, which are the direct de-
scendants of the described species. The Hungarian author in-
terprets the paleoassociations as occupying oligohaline, agi-
tated water of few meters depth close to an estuary.
This unit represents an offshore facies characterized by lev-
elbottom conditions. The muddy lake bottom was mainly set-
tled by the bivalve Congeria partschi, which was a suspen-
sion feeder on the sediment surface. According to Korpás-
Hódi (1983), Congeria partschi preferred an aphytal, nutrient-
rich subzone of the shallow sublittoral zone. Rather calm con-
ditions with very weak agitation are indicated by the articulat-
ed preservation of the bivalves. The deposition therefore took
place beyond the wave base, which is placed by Korpás-Hódi
(1983) at a depth of 10—15 m below the surface of Lake Pan-
non. This species indicates salinities of about 10—16 ‰.
Suspension-feeding bivalves strongly predominate in the
shelly fauna, whilst gastropods are absent. Typical taxa from
the sandy marginal facies, such as Melanopsis, are completely
missing. This cannot be explained simply by sampling effects,
because ostracods are well documented in the sieving sam-
ples, whereas fragments of gastropod shells are absent. Thus
the lack of herbivorous gastropods also hints at an aphotic
sublittoral zone where the lake bottom was depleted of plants.
The intercalations of two thin sandy beds may have been
caused by high-energy events that transported sand into the
basin. Besides heavy storms, the Bisamberg fault zone – at
that time still active – may be a possible trigger for the input
of shoreface sediment.
A sequence stratigraphical concept for the Pannonian of the
northern Vienna Basin was recently introduced by Kováč et
al. (1998). This was also integrated in the Carpathian and Pan-
nonian Basins sequence stratigraphical model of Baráth &
Kováč (2000) and Hudáčková et al. (2000). Kováč et al.
(1998) based their interpretation mainly on the drillings at
Malacky, Jakubov and Suchohrad in Slovak territory of the
northern Vienna Basin. The proximity of these boreholes to
the herein presented section Pellendorf allows a direct com-
parison and renders an integration of our observations within
the Slovak scheme mandatory.
According to Kováč et al. (1998) and Hudáčková et al.
(2000), the Pannonian ”zones” A and B are part of a late 3rd
order highstand systems tract or falling-stage systems tract of
the Carpathian-Pannonian Cycle 6. In the northern Vienna
Basin this phase is represented by various delta-associated fa-
cies. The following 3rd order systems tract starts with thick
deltaic sand bodies of a lowstand systems tract which is corre-
50 HARZHAUSER et al.
lated with the Pannonian “zone” C. In the basin a distinct ero-
sive surface marks the boundary between this Carpathian-
Pannonian Cycle 7 and the foregoing 3rd order cycle. The late
“zone” C and ”zone” D are regarded as part of the transgres-
sive systems tract which culminates in the maximum flooding
surface within the “zone” E.
The small-scale pattern observed in the three sections of the
Kronberg uplifted block may best be correlated with the 4th
order systems tracts during this early CPC 7. Kováč et al.
(1998) divided the Pannonian “zone” C into a larger part
which represents a 4th order LST and the beginning of a TST,
which mainly correlates with the early “zone” D. Although no
accurate biostratigraphic dating of the basal unit of gravels at
the section Pellendorf is possible, we intend to correlate this
sedimentary unit with the LST of the Pannonian “zone” C.
During this phase the deposits of the Hollabrunn-Mistelbach
Formation in the broader surroundings of Mistelbach reflect a
coarse-grained delta (braided delta) system. An extensive del-
ta plain developed in the area under study along the western
margin of the northern Vienna Basin, and the river shed its
load far into the basin (Fig. 6). Progradation of the delta was
also observed at several other localities in the investigation
area during the mapping (by S. Nehyba). With the prograda-
tion of the delta front facies during the Pannonian “zone” C,
freshwater marshes and small lakes developed in the delta
plain (unit 3). No brackish water reached these biotas and thus
a diverse hydrophyte flora accompanied by various freshwater
molluscs thrived in the marshes. These were bordered by ri-
parian forests in the wider surroundings of Lake Pannon. Lo-
cal tectonics might have supported the formation of ponds and
depressions, indicated by considerable lateral differences in
In the entire investigation area these calm environments
were abruptly replaced by riverine or even estuarine condi-
tions with swift and agitated water. These strong shifts in fa-
cies point to a backstepping of the deltafront in a landward di-
rection and to a take-over by riverine settings in the former
marshes. Upsection, the overlying clay with Congeria parts-
chi can definitely be attributed to the 4th order TST of the late
Pannonian “zone” C. We therefore interpret units 3 to 5 to
represent a retrogradational parasequence set within a 4th or-
der systems tract.
However, such depositional systems are very sensitive to
any fluctuation of the relative sea level, base level or sediment
supply. Thus, the main problem in the presented sequence
stratigraphic interpretation is the shift of the distributary chan-
nel, resulting in strong changes of sediment supply.
Due to its position close to the Bisamberg Fault, a sedimen-
tary sequence of about 35 m thickness of the Pannonian
“zone” C escaped from erosion at the margin of the Kronberg
uplifted block. This marginal sequence is exposed in two sand
and gravel pits close to Pellendorf in Lower Austria. They
correspond to about 150 m of basinal sediment reported by
Kováč et al. (1998) from drillings in the northern Vienna Ba-
sin. The slight NW-SE decrease in the thickness of units 3 and
4 is probably related to synsedimentary tectonic activity of the
adjoining Bisamberg fault-zone. If so, the decrease of thick-
ness-difference from unit 3 to 4 might indicate maximum tec-
tonic movement during the deposition of unit 3, and a deceler-
ation of movement during the deposition of unit 4.
Here, in the vicinity of Mistelbach, the “Paleo-Danube” ter-
minated in a braided delta system in the northern Vienna Ba-
sin during the Early Pannonian lowstand. Freshwater ecosys-
tems developed in the delta plain; displaying similarities with
modern habitats of the Volga delta bordering the Caspian Sea.
Later during the Pannonian “zone” C, the rising sea level
Fig. 6. Paleogeography of the Pannonian Zones C/D after Magyar et al. (1999). The detail shows an attempt at a paleogeographical recon-
struction of the investigation area during the formation of the hydrophyte-bearing pelite (unit 3). The Bisamberg Fault and the Steinberg
Fault are partly drawn to emphasize the importance of these tectonically active zones during the Early Pannonian.
AN EARLY PANNONIAN TRANSGRESSION IN THE VIENNA BASIN 51
caused a landward backstepping of these freshwater environ-
ments. The transgression finally culminated in the take-over
by sublittoral environments of Lake Pannon followed by the
establishment of basinal Congeria assemblages.
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by the FWF-
Projects P-13741 Bio and P-13745 Bio. Thanks go to Michal
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