Organic geochemical studies of a Messinian evaporitic basin, northern Apennines (Italy) I: Hydrocarbon biological markers for a hypersaline environment
This paper describes the occurrence and significance of hydrocarbons present in two bituminous marl layers and one distinct gypsum layer from a Messinian sedimentary basin, where hypersaline conditions prevailed. Several new compounds were detected and tentatively identified: of these 20R and 20S 4α, 24-dimethyl-5α(H),14β(H),17β(H) and 20R and 20S 4β,24-dimethyI-5α(H),14β(H),17β(H) cholestanes; 4-methylspirosterenes; 4,4-dimethyl-5α(H),14β(H),17β(H) pregnanes and homopregnanes are discussed in this paper. Several of these compounds might be considered as biological markers for a (hyper)saline environment. The short side chain 4-desmethylsteranes, 5α(H),14β(H),17β(H), 5α(H),14β(H),17α(H) and 5α(H),14α(H), 17α(H) pregnanes and homopregnanes, are the most abundant compounds in the extract from the gypsum sample. It is suggested that in this case these compounds do not reflect the stage of diagenesis but are related to certain organisms exclusively occurring in hypersaline environments. In addition the very low pristane/phytane ratio, often considered as an indicator for anoxicity, could also be interpreted as a useful indicator for hypersalinity.