Early to late Pliocene sedimentary strata present across the northern Bass Strait hinterland, southeastern Australia yield extensive fossil proxy data relevant to the interpretation of high sea level coastal palaeomorphology. Within the Pliocene Whalers Bluff Formation exposed in coastal cliffs near the township of Portland, Victoria, marine microfossil faunas delineate two broad cycles of deposition. Both these sedimentary cycles are bound below by unconformity surfaces. Within the lower sedimentary cycle, a basal stress-tolerant (low diversity) marginal marine microfossil fauna devoid of ostracods and suggestive of bottom-water hypoxia, is succeeded by a diverse shallow marine ostracod fauna dominated by stenohaline species indicative of a sheltered (but open) oceanic embayment. This lower sedimentary cycle has an early Pliocene (Zanclean) age. Equivalent shallow marine (e.g. coastal embayment) deposits occur broadly across the coastal hinterland of southeastern Australia-reflecting the generally higher global sea levels of this time. The upper cycle in the cliff exposures at Portland is late Pliocene (Piacenzian) in age. Equivalent deposits across the Bass Strait hinterland are restricted to former incised river valley settings. Euryhaline estuarine/coastal lagoon Ostracoda are present throughout the upper cycle in the Portland cliffs. These are associated with a low diversity microfauna at the base of the upper cycle and a high diversity microfauna towards the top of the cycle. Early Pliocene coastal marine deposits can be distinguished from late Pliocene coastal marine deposits across the northern Bass Strait hinterland on the basis of the presence or absence of certain open marine ('stenohaline') ostracod species.
Published 22nd June 2011 as an Online First article