TRACE FOSSIL CURVOLITHUS FROM THE CRINOIDAL LIMESTONES 175
GEOLOGICA CARPATHICA, 54, 3, BRATISLAVA, JUNE 2003
TRACE FOSSIL CURVOLITHUS FROM THE MIDDLE JURASSIC
CRINOIDAL LIMESTONES OF THE PIENINY KLIPPEN BELT
and ALFRED UCHMAN
Department of Stratigraphy and Regional Geology, Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection,
University of Mining and Metallurgy, Mickiewicza 30, 30-059 Kraków, Poland; email@example.com
Institute of Geological Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Oleandry 2a, 30-063 Kraków, Poland; firstname.lastname@example.org
(Manuscript received March 19, 2002; accepted in revised form December 12, 2002)
Abstract: The trace fossil Curvolithus simplex has been described for the first time in carbonate facies: the Bajocian
crinoidal limestones of the Pieniny Klippen Belt. Curvolithus is typical of the Cruziana ichnofacies. This suggests
deposition of the crinoidal limestones at shelf depths, below the fair-weather wave base. Curvolithus occurs exclusively
in the lowermost part of the limestones, which are interpreted as having been deposited in the toes of migrating bars or
banks of crinoidal sand. Such settings display increased preservational potential of trace fossils, and are preferred by the
most probable Curvolithus tracemakers, that is, carnivorous or scavenging gastropods.
Key words: Jurassic, Poland, Carpathians, Pieniny Klippen Belt, trace fossils, Curvolithus.
Trace fossils are useful tools for the reconstruction of benthic
life and paleoenvironmental conditions (e.g., Frey 1975;
Ekdale et al. 1984; Frey & Pemberton 1985; Pemberton 1992;
Donovan 1994; Bromley 1996). Unfortunately, they are very
rare in some facies, for example in massive calcarenites. Un-
expectedly, the ichnogenus Curvolithus has been found in
Middle Jurassic calcarenites of the Pieniny Klippen Belt, in
two sections in similar stratigraphic position, but in different
paleogeographical/tectonic units. This is the first occurrence
of this trace fossil in carbonate facies. Its description and inter-
pretation is the main aim of this paper.
The illustrated specimens are housed in Jagiellonian Uni-
versity in Kraków (acronym 169P).
The Pieniny Klippen Belt Basin is interpreted as a separate
branch of the northern Tethys, in which several longitudinal
facies zones can be distinguished. Each zone displays a dis-
tinctive vertical facies succession. One of them, the Czorsztyn
Succession, corresponds to submarine ridges, others to
troughs (Branisko and Pieniny Successions), while others oc-
cupy a transitional position (Niedzica and Czertezik Succes-
sions) (see Birkenmajer 1977, 1979, 1986) (Fig. 1).
Crinoidal limestones are a characteristic Middle Jurassic
(Bajocian) Tethyan facies of the Pieniny Klippen Belt from
Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine. They are usually massive, fine-
to medium-grained, predominantly white, grey and red cal-
carenites, which only locally show indistinct bedding. The
grains are dominated by crinoid ossicles, and other bioclasts
are very rare. The thickness of these limestones depends on
their primary paleogeographical position within sedimentary
basin. The thickest limestones occur in the shallowest zone
(Czorsztyn Succession from 10 m up to 150 m thick),
while the thinnest are associated with deeper zones (e.g.,
Niedzica Succession only about 10 m) (Birkenmajer 1977)
Two localities the Czorsztyn-Sobótka Klippe and Niedz-
ica-Podmajerz Klippe are examined here (Fig. 1). They be-
long to the Czorsztyn and Niedzica Successions, respectively,
which accumulated generally in subtidal to neritic shelf envi-
ronments of the submarine Czorsztyn Ridge (sensu Birkenma-
jer 1986; 1988 = swell sensu Miík 1994) and on its south-
ern slope (Fig. 2). During the Aalenian, marlstones and
claystones of the Fleckenmergel facies, represented by the
Harcygrund Shale and Skrzypny Shale Formations, were
formed (Birkenmajer 1977). Bajocian uplift of the Czorsztyn
Ridge resulted in a marked change of sedimentary conditions
(Birkenmajer 1963; Aubrecht et al. 1997; Wierzbowski et al.
1999) leading to deposition of white crinoidal limestone
(Smolegowa Limestone Formation) followed by red crinoidal
limestone (Krupianka Limestone Formation). In both succes-
sions, the crinoidal grainstones of the Smolegowa Limestone
Formation were produced by crinoid communities, which de-
veloped on the southern shelf of the Czorsztyn Ridge. After
gradual sea-level rise during the latest Bajocian and Batho-
nian, the red pelagic nodular ammonitico rosso-type lime-
stones of the Czorsztyn and Niedzica Limestone Formations
originated; these dominated in the time span from Callovian to
Locally, large scale cross-bedding (sets up to 50 cm thick)
occurs in the Smolegowa and Krupianka limestones, for ex-
ample in the Hatné-Hrádok (Aubrecht & Sýkora 1998) and the
Czorsztyn Castle Klippe sections (Wierzbowski et al. 1999).
The cross-bedding indicates strong bottom currents and depo-
176 KROBICKI and UCHMAN
sition of large bedforms, probably bars. The crinoid calcareni-
tes of the Smolegowa Limestone Formation may be interpret-
ed as shallow-water crinoidal shoal complexes (Aubrecht &
Sýkora 1998) that resulted from disintegration of crinoid
meadows (with limited post-mortem transport of crinoid oss-
icles; G³uchowski 1987) and subsequent accumulation in sub-
marine banks or bars.
The Middle Jurassic crinoidal limestones are widespread
deposits within the entire western Tethys and they were prob-
ably deposited in similar paleotectonic and paleo-
environmental conditions (Jenkyns 1971; Bernoulli & Jen-
Niedzica-Podmajerz Klippe. This is a huge klippe located
(Fig. 2) in the forest ~400 m north of the Niedzica village
(Birkenmajer & Znosko 1955 fig. 1; Birkenmajer 1958
fig. 80; Birkenmajer 1977 figs. 7K, 24A; Birkenmajer
Fig. 1. Location map.
TRACE FOSSIL CURVOLITHUS FROM THE CRINOIDAL LIMESTONES 177
1979 fig. 67). It displays a complete sequence of Jurassic
deposits of the Niedzica Succession. The Jurassic limestones
and radiolarites form tectonically overturned thrust blocks
composed of two or three tectonic slices surrounded by Upper
The section has been studied in an artificial trench dug in
the northwestern part of the klippe, where soft, strongly
weathered, grey and black marly shales (Fleckenmergel-type
Alpine facies) with spherosiderite concretions of the Skrzypny
Shale Formation dominate. The boundary between this forma-
tion and the lowermost beds of the light-greyish crinoidal
limestones of the overlying Smolegowa Limestone Formation
was exposed at the south-eastern end of the trench. The crinoi-
dal limestones are about 3.70 m thick. They become red co-
loured and show an indistinct nodular character. These lime-
stones, in turn, are overlain by 3.60 m thick, hard, dark red,
thin-bedded crinoidal limestones with many marly intercala-
tions, which are assigned to the Krupianka Limestone Forma-
tion. The overlying ammonitico rosso-type red nodular lime-
stones with marked admixture of marls, about 11.0 m thick,
belong to the Niedzica Limestone Formation (comp.
Wierzbowski et al. 1999).
The lowermost part of the Smolegowa Limestone Formation
consists of thin-bedded limestones with beds up to 25 cm thick,
and with abundant fossils, mainly brachiopods and belemnite
guards. The trace fossils described here were found in excavat-
ed blocks containing clasts of light-greenish micritic limestone,
pyrite framboids, phosphate concretions, fragments of Middle
Triassic dolomites and dedolomitized carbonates, and quartz
grains transported from the emerged and eroded Czorsztyn
Ridge (Birkenmajer 1958, 1963; Miík & Aubrecht 1994).
Rare but well-preserved ammonites occur in a bed ~1 m
above the base of the Smolegowa Limestone Formation. They
belong to Stephanoceratidae family (A. Wierzbowski, pers.
com. 2002), which is characteristic of the Lower Bajocian.
The topmost part of the highest bed of the overlying Krupi-
anka Limestone Formation yielded a single specimen of Ga-
rantiana (Hlaviceras) tetragona Wetzel, which is indicative
of the Tetragona Subzone (uppermost part of the Garantiana
Zone) of the Upper Bajocian (Wierzbowski et al. 1999).
Czorsztyn-Sobótka Klippe. This section is located in the
northern part of the so-called Czorsztyn-Sobótka Klippe (Fig.
2) just above the water level of the artificial reservoir, about
200 m below Czorsztyn Castle (Birkenmajer 1963, 1977,
1979). During low-water, the lowermost part of the white
crinoidal limestones of the Smolegowa Limestone Formation
crop out at the contact with the spherosideritic black shales of
the Skrzypny Shale Formation (lower Bajocian). The bound-
ary between these two formations is very poorly seen due to
weathering. The examined specimens of Curvolithus derive
from a rubble containing blocks of light-yellowish, fine-
grained crinoidal limestones with small clasts of greenish mi-
critic limestones, weathered pyrite framboids, small phospho-
rite concretions and rare ammonite shell fragments. Still
younger red crinoidal limestones of the Krupianka Limestone
Formation are barren of index fossils, but the lowermost part
of the overlying red nodular ammonitico rosso-type lime-
stones of the Czorsztyn Limestone Formation contains ammo-
nites (e.g., Dimorphinites dimorphus (dOrbigny) and Nan-
nolytoceras tripartitum (Raspail)) indicating the uppermost
Bajocian (Parkinsoni Zone) (Wierzbowski et al. 1999). There-
fore, both the Smolegowa Limestone Formation and the over-
lying Krupianka Limestone Formation belong to the Bajocian.
Ichnogenus Curvolithus Fritsch, 1908
Diagnosis: Straight to curved, horizontal, subhorizontal
to rarely oblique, ribbon-like or tongue-like, flattened, un-
branched, essentially endostratal traces with three rounded
lobes on upper surface and up to four lobes on concave or con-
vex lower surface. Central lobe on upper surface wider that
than outer lobes and separated from them by shallow, angular
furrows. Faint, narrow central furrow dividing central lobe in
upper surface may be present (after Buatois et al. 1998).
Ichnospecies Curvolithus simplex Buatois, Mangano, Mikulá
& Maples 1998
Material: Five rock blocks with eight burrows.
Diagnosis: Curvolithus with a smooth, trilobate upper
surface and a smooth, unilobate or trilobate, concave or con-
vex lower surface (after Buatois et al. 1998).
Description: Straight to slightly winding, horizontal to
inclined, trilobate ribbon-like trace fossils. From a hypichnial
view, they are composed of a central, flat or slightly convex
zone and two convex, rounded side lobes. All the parts are
smooth. Width of the entire burrow ranges from 9 to 13 mm,
while side lobes are 23 mm wide.
Remarks: According to the revision by Buatois et al.
(1998), Curvolithus has only two ichnospecies: C. multiplex
Fritsch, and C. simplex Buatois, Mangano, Mikulá & Maples.
C. multiplex is easily recognizable by his quadralobe lower
Curvolithus is interpreted as a locomotion trace (repichnion),
produced most probably by carnivorous gastropods (Heinberg
Fig. 2. Palinspastic cross-section of the Pieniny Klippen Belt Basin
during the Middle Jurassic (after Birkenmajer 1977, 1986, simplified).
Zones represented by the investigated sections are indicated in the
178 KROBICKI and UCHMAN
1973) similar to recent representatives of the Cephalaspidae
family (Heinberg & Birkelund 1984). Buatois et al. (1998)
added that scavenging gastropods as well as carnivorous
forms may be the tracemakers, and that tubellarian or nem-
ertean worms cannot be excluded. The flat worms (tubellari-
ans) as tracemakers of Curvolithus were suggested earlier by
Curvolithus occurs from the Proterozoic (Webby 1970) to
the Miocene (Keij 1965) in various shallow marine or even
brackish environments, including distal fan deltas, tidal flats
and offshore settings (see Buatois et al. 1998, for review).
Occurrences of Curvolithus in the Middle Jurassic crinoidal
limestones of the Pieniny Klippen Belt are worthy of note for
several reasons. Firstly, this is the first time this trace fossil
has been documented in carbonate deposits. In general, trace
fossils are very rare in crinoidal limestones, mostly because of
taphonomic reasons. Crinoidal ossicles are very porous, with
high buoyancy. They probably formed very shifting sedi-
ments with little cohesion, and thus with very low preserva-
tion potential for burrows. The massive character of some
crinoidal limestones is most likely related to bioturbation, the
effects of which are not preserved in recognizable ichnofab-
rics. Moreover, diagenetic processes, especially cementation,
can change the primary small-scale fabric of sediments, in-
cluding discrete bioturbation structures and small burrows.
Secondly, the occurrence of Curvolithus helps to confirm
its paleoenvironmental interpretation. Curvolithus has never
been found in deep-water facies, below shelf. It is a character-
istic component of the Cruziana ichnofacies typical of the
zone between fair-weather and storm wave basses (Seilacher
1967; Frey & Seilacher 1980). It is typical of the Curvolithus
ichnofacies, which has been recognized as a subichnofacies
(Lockley et al. 1987) within or as an association of the Cru-
ziana ichnofacies (Bromley 1990). Heinberg & Birkelund
(1984) concluded that Curvolithus tracemaker is very tolerant
to grain-size changes, and that this confirms its production by
carnivores. Therefore, Curvolithus occurs in a wide spectrum
of shelf environments (Buatois et al. 1998). Lockley et al.
(1987) noted that the Curvolithus ichnofacies is common in
low-energy environments characterized by high rates of depo-
sition and is typical in delta-influenced shelves. Buatois et al.
(1998) distinguished two typical preservational situations for
Curvolithus: low-diversity ichnoassociations in totally biotur-
bated sediments representing relatively low-energy environ-
ments; and high-diversity ichnoassociations in partly biotur-
bated sediments deposited in higher-energy environments.
Fig. 3. Curvolithus simplex in the hypichnial view. Bajocian crinoidal limestones, Niedzica-Podmajerz Klippe. A. Specimen 169P1 (also
Planolites isp. is visible P). B. Specimen 169P2. C. Specimen 169P3. D. Specimen 169P4. Scale bars = 1 cm.
TRACE FOSSIL CURVOLITHUS FROM THE CRINOIDAL LIMESTONES 179
In the investigated sections, Curvolithus is the only trace
fossil, except for one example of Planolites. Curvolithus oc-
curs exclusively in the lowermost part of the crinoidal lime-
stones, just above calcilutitic marlstones of the Skrzypny
Shale Formation, which are totally bioturbated (Tyszka 1993)
and were deposited in offshore or even deeper settings. Dur-
ing the Bajocian shallowing, the deposition of crinoidal cal-
carenites most likely spread out from subtidal shoals in the
form of bars or banks which encroached on deeper shoreface
or offshore environments. Bars and banks are typical deposi-
tional forms for the Tethyan crinoidal limestones (Jenkyns
1971), and these from the Pieniny Klippen Belt are probably
not an exception. This is confirmed by the local presence of
large-scale cross-bedding. The lowermost part of the dis-
cussed crinoidal limestones, probably deposited on the edge
of the shoals, can be related to toes of the bars or banks. Such
places are preferred for accumulation of fresh biodetritus. At
the transition between two facies types, very high animal di-
versity is expected. The toes can also be stabilized earlier than
other parts of the bars or shoals owing to adherence to the
fine-grained substrates, biological binding and more rapid ce-
mentation. Rapid burial by avalanching or rapid migration of
the bars or banks is also possible. Thus, bedform toes are
good places for the formation and preservation of burrows. At
least some of these factors played a role in preservation of
Curvolithus from situations known from the Lower Creta-
ceous where Heinberg & Birkelund (1984) noted an occur-
rence of abundant Curvolithus in upper offshore facies, close
to distinct lithological changes (good hunting or scavenging
areas). Dam (1990) described Lower Jurassic Curvolithus,
among other trace fossils, from delta bottomsets, and Fürsich
& Heinberg (1983) from ocean-side slopes of offshore bars of
the Upper Jurassic (rapid bedform migration).
1. The trace fossil Curvolithus simplex has been found for
the first time in carbonate deposits in the Bajocian crinoi-
dal limestones of the Pieniny Klippen Belt.
2. Curvolithus, a common trace fossil of the Cruziana ich-
nofacies, confirms deposition of the crinoidal limestones in
shelf depths, below the fair-weather wave base.
3. Most probably, Curvolithus occurs in the toe of migrat-
ing bars or banks of crinoidal sand. Such a place is preferred
by the most probable trace makers: carnivorous or scavenging
gastropods, and it is a place of increased preservational poten-
tial. Therefore, Curvolithus is preserved only in the lowermost
part of the crinoidal limestones.
Acknowledgments: This paper is a contribution to the Project
KBN 6 P04D 022 21 granted by the Polish State Committee
for Scientific Research (MK). Additional support has been
given by the Jagiellonian University (AUDS funds). Charles
E. Savrda (Auburn, Alabama), Radek Mikulá (Prague, Czech
Republic) and Tadeusz Peryt (Warsaw, Poland) provided crit-
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