New insights into the genesis of the Miocene collapse structures of the island of Gozo (Malta, central Mediterranean Sea)
The large palaeosinkholes located in the NW of Gozo (central Mediterranean Sea, Malta) offer excellent exposures that provide information on the geometry and kinematics of large karst-related collapse structures. Detailed geological analysis of these peculiar palaeosinkholes indicates that deep-seated evaporite dissolution is the most feasible hypothesis to explain their formation, according to the following evidence. (1) Several structures have been formed by progressive foundering of cylindrical blocks with limited internal deformation as revealed by the synsedimentary subsidence recorded by their Miocene sedimentary fill. This subsidence mechanism is more compatible with interstratal dissolution of evaporites than karstification and cave development in limestone formations. (2) The dimensions and deformation style of the palaeosinkholes are similar to those of other collapse structures related to deep-seated dissolution of salt-bearing evaporites. (3) The arcuate monocline associated with some of these collapse structures is also a characteristic feature of subsidence related to dissolution of evaporites. However, no major evaporite formations have been documented so far in the subsurface of the Malta Platform.