The northern part of the Fortescue Group consists of interbedded flood basalts and sedimentary rocks that were deposited on the southern margin of the Pilbara Craton, Western Australia, during one or more periods of continental rifting between ca 2.78 and ca 2.63 Ga. Well-preserved sedimentary intervals within the group have yielded stable carbon and sulfur isotope data that have been used to infer changes in geobiological processes in the Neoarchean. However, the Fortescue Group is notable for being a predominantly subaerial succession, and it remains unclear whether data obtained from these intervals should be interpreted in the context of deposition in marine environments, possibly recording changes in the global ocean/atmosphere system, or in local and restricted lacustrine settings. Here, we describe the sedimentology, stratigraphy, stromatolites and stable carbon isotope geochemistry of the ca 2.74 Ga Mopoke Member, Kylena Formation, the oldest stromatolitic horizon in the Fortescue Group. This unit differs in terms of internal stratigraphic relationships, sedimentology, carbonate mineralogy and stable isotope geochemistry when compared with intervals of probable lacustrine origin in the overlying Tumbiana and Maddina formations. In contrast, we suggest that parts of the Mopoke Member may have been deposited under open marine conditions, or alternatively, in a lacustrine environment characterised by differing water chemistry and basement topography. Stromatolitic microfabrics of the Mopoke Member are dominated by spar, dolospar and vertically aligned calcitic crusts, rather than the micritic microfabrics described from other Fortescue Group stromatolites. Mud-draped ripples are common sedimentary features in the Mopoke Member, suggesting a tidal influence. Mopoke Member δ13Ccarbvalues are generally slightly positive, but also include some significantly depleted values, which may relate to the reoxidation of 13C-depleted organic matter. δ13Corgvalues average –36.7‰, consistent with Neoarchean marine units reported from elsewhere, but significantly less 13C-depleted than values reported from overlying lacustrine intervals in the Fortescue Group. We conclude that some features of Fortescue Group datasets relevant to the field of geobiology may be facies dependent, and that more work focusing on the overall depositional environments of the Fortescue Group is needed in order to appropriately interpret geobiological data reported from that group.
- microbially induced sedimentary structures