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Neogene intermontane basins in Almería Province, SE Spain, display excellent exposures of Messinian (Late Miocene) sequences. The Sorbas, Almería-Níjar and Vera basins maintained connection with the Mediterranean throughout the Messinian, except during the major desiccation phase leading to the formation of salt in the deep centre of the Western Mediterranean. These basins were part of the Western Mediterranean with no separate link to the Atlantic Ocean. The presence of normal marine sediments in these basins reflects the Western Mediterranean watermass. Messinian pre-evaporitic sediments in the basins of southeastern Almería do not show gradual change towards evaporite deposits. Instead they contain stenohaline invertebrates right up to a major erosion surface that separates them from overlying gypsum deposits. This contradicts suggestion of progressive salinity increase in this part of the Western Mediterranean prior to the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC); it also indicates that initiation of evaporite precipitation was not synchronous throughout the Mediterranean Basin. There is no major erosion surface within or at the top of the evaporites in these Almería basins, and the gypsum beds exhibit upward transition to siliciclastic and carbonate deposits. This is inconsistent with a model of Messinian Mediterranean evaporite formation whereby deposition of marginal evaporites was followed by their erosion during drawdown that resulted in formation of evaporites in the centre of the Western Mediterranean. The presence of stenohaline biotas in siliciclastic deposits interbedded with the gypsum and in the Messinian post-evaporitic sediments, challenges the view that a long-standing large body of brackish water (the Lago Mare) filled the Western Mediterranean following the MSC and prior to Early Pliocene flooding. It also contradicts the concept of many relatively small brackish basins spread across an otherwise desiccated Western Mediterranean basin. The basins of southeastern Almería record normal marine Early Messinian sedimentation that was abruptly interrupted by sealevel fall. This drawdown most likely resulted in precipitation of evaporites in the central deep Western Mediterranean basin. Following this episode, final marine reflooding of the Western Mediterranean took place during the Late Messinian, and the Mediterranean Sea rose to a level similar to, or higher than, that preceding the Salinity Crisis.


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