Malargüe Group (Maastrichtian-Danian) deposits in the Neuquén Andes, Argentina: Implications for the onset of the first Atlantic transgression related to Western Gondwana break-up

B. Aguirre-Urreta*, M. Tunik, M. Naipauer, P. Pazos, E. Ottone, M. Fanning, V. A. Ramos

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    84 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The discovery of marine to brackish and fresh-water carbonates in the inner Agrio fold-and-thrust belt at Pichaihue, Neuquén, Argentina, located to the west of the Andean orogenic front, imposes important constraints on the paleogeography of the first Atlantic transgression in the Neuquén Basin related to the break-up of Western Gondwana. The constraints on the timing and areal extent of these deposits shed light on the early uplift history of the southern Andes. These limestones are part of the Maastrichtian-Danian Malargüe Group, which was previously only known from its exposures in the extra-Andean area, representing foreland basin deposits. The presence of stromatolites, oncoids, serpulids, bivalves and gastropods as well as silicified stems of macrophytes indicates a shallow marine, partially brackish environment associated with non-marine deposits. These strata are interfingered with and overlie distal tuffs and proximal pyroclastic flows, whose geochemical characteristics point to a magmatic arc source. SHRIMP U-Pb dating of volcanic zircons of these tuffs yielded an age of 64.3 ± 0.9. Ma that confirms the correlation to the Maastrichtian-Paleocene marine transgression from the Atlantic Ocean. The change in the paleoslope of the basin from Pacific Ocean transgressions to this Atlantic transgression is related to the uplift and deformation of the Agrio fold-and-thrust belt. The Pichaihue Limestone is unconformably deposited on volcanic agglomerates which in turn unconformably overlie Early Cretaceous deposits. Based on these data, it is confirmed that the Cretaceous uplift of the Andes was episodic at these latitudes, with a first pulse in the Cenomanian and a second one in pre-Maastrichtian times. The episodic uplift is also related to an eastward migration of the thrust front and the volcanic arc, related to a previously proposed shallowing of the subduction zone. These episodes were controlled by the Western Gondwana break-up and the beginning of absolute motion of South America toward the west.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)482-494
    Number of pages13
    JournalGondwana Research
    Volume19
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

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