• Multi-phased hypogene speleogenesis occured at the fault interface of a horst-graben structure
  • Sulfuric acid speleogenesis is identified by morphological and mineralogical evidence
  • Cave levels are featured by flat corrosion floors and fissure discharge feeders
  • Formation of cave levels is linked to the subsidence history of the Vienna Basin
  • U-series dating and paleomagnetic analysis of Early–Middle Pleistocene deposits were conducted


Hypogene caves in the Plavecký hradný vrch Hill (Western Slovakia, Central Europe) were formed by waters ascending along faults in fractured Triassic carbonates related to the horst-graben structure at the contact of the Malé Karpaty Mountains and the NE part of the Vienna Basin. The Plavecká jaskyňa and Pec caves mostly contain horizontal passages and chambers with flat corrosion bedrock floors, fissure discharge feeders, wall water-table notches, replacement pockets, as well as a few other speleogens associated with sulfuric acid speleogenesis. The low-temperature sulfuric acid development phases of the Plavecká Jaskyňa are also indicated by the presence of sulfate minerals (i.e., gypsum and jarosite).Subaerial calcite popcorn rims were precipitated from water condensation at the edges of feeding fissures that were still active as thermal vents when the water table dropped. Hydrogen sulfide involved in the sulfuric acid speleogenesis was likely derived from anhydrites and/or hydrocarbon reservoirs with sulfate-saline connate waters in the fill of the adjacent Vienna Basin. It ascended to the surface along deep-rooted sub-vertical fault zones at the contact of the Vienna Basin with neighboring mountains. Three cave levels at 295 to 283 m asl in the Pec Cave, and five levels at 225 to 214 m asl in the Plavecká jaskyňa corresponded to phases of stable local erosional base levels in the bordering part of the Vienna Basin, most likely during periods of strongly decelerated and/or interrupted subsidence. Cave levels separated by vertical differences of only a few meters may also be related to the Pleistocene climatic cycles. The subhorizontal parts of the Pec Cave are probably of late Early Pleistocene age (˃0.99–1.07 Ma?). The two highest levels of the Plavecká jaskyňa developed during the early Middle Pleistocene (˃600 ka). Fine-grained sediments in the passage at 225 m asl with normal magnetic polarity contain jarosite. The middle level of the Plavecká jaskyňa at 220 m asl was formed in the mid-Middle Pleistocene, while the lower and lowermost levels formed in the late Middle Pleistocene (˃270 ka). The water table in the lowermost cave level probably dropped after the tectonic reactivation of the Podmalokarpatská zníženina Depression just in the front of a marginal horst structure of the Malé Karpaty Mountains.



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