skip to main content

Title: Facies interpretation and geochronology of diverse Eocene floras and faunas, northwest Chubut Province, Patagonia, Argentina
Abstract The Eocene Huitrera Formation of northwestern Patagonia, Argentina, is renowned for its diverse, informative, and outstandingly preserved fossil biotas. In northwest Chubut Province, at the Laguna del Hunco locality, this unit includes one of the most diverse fossil floras known from the Eocene, as well as significant fossil insects and vertebrates. It also includes rich fossil vertebrate faunas at the Laguna Fría and La Barda localities. Previous studies of these important occurrences have provided relatively little sedimentological detail, and radioisotopic age constraints are relatively sparse and in some cases obsolete. Here, we describe five fossiliferous lithofacies deposited in four terrestrial depositional environments: lacustrine basin floor, subaerial pyroclastic plain, vegetated, waterlogged pyroclastic lake margin, and extracaldera incised valley. We also report several new 40Ar/39Ar age determinations. Among these, the uppermost unit of the caldera-forming Ignimbrita Barda Colorada yielded a 40Ar/39Ar age of 52.54 ± 0.17 Ma, ∼6 m.y. younger than previous estimates, which demonstrates that deposition of overlying fossiliferous lacustrine strata (previously constrained to older than 52.22 ± 0.22 Ma) must have begun almost immediately on the subsiding ignimbrite surface. A minimum age for Laguna del Hunco fossils is established by an overlying ignimbrite with an age of 49.19 ± more » 0.24 Ma, confirming that deposition took place during the early Eocene climatic optimum. The Laguna Fría mammalian fauna is younger, constrained between a valley-filling ignimbrite and a capping basalt with 40Ar/39Ar ages of 49.26 ± 0.30 Ma and 43.50 ± 1.14 Ma, respectively. The latter age is ∼4 m.y. younger than previously reported. These new ages more precisely define the age range of the Laguna Fría and La Barda faunas, allowing greatly improved understanding of their positions with respect to South American mammal evolution, climate change, and geographic isolation. « less
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
GSA Bulletin
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
740 to 752
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The Ruby Mountains, East Humboldt Range and Wood Hills (REHW) of Elko County Nevada, one of the classic metamorphic core complexes of the Cordillera, preserves a protracted and episodic record of both ancient and modern crustal extension that has only recently been unraveled based on its thermochronometrically constrained cooling history. Extension began during the Late Eocene synchronously with a major pulse of intermediate to felsic magmatism preserved locally by plutonic rocks intruded into the REHW and regionally by widespread Late Eocene to early Oligocene volcanism (“the ignimbrite flare-up”). The Eocene-Oligocene event accommodated at least 15 km of extension concentrated in the northern half of the complex and associated with deposition in the Elko Basin to the west, a relatively thin (~1 km), broad sequence of Late Eocene lacustrine and related strata that contrasts with the younger sedimentation patterns represented by the narrower, thicker (up to 4+km), coarse clastics of the Miocene Humboldt Basin. Though locally significant, the Eocene-Oligocene extensional phase appears not to have been associated with broadly distributed regional extension, again contrasting with Miocene and younger events. The initial phase of extension slowed or halted by the mid-Oligocene, after which extension re-accelerated in the latest Oligocene to early Miocenemore »(~25 – 21 Ma), correlative with deposition of a coarse clastic and lacustrine sequence known as the Clover Formation. This extensional phase propagated farther south than the earlier phase along the full length of the REHW. Extension likely slowed again between ~21 Ma and ~17.5 Ma, after which it abruptly re-accelerated through the Middle Miocene to ~10 Ma, synchronous with deposition of the thick, coarse clastics of the Humboldt Formation. Middle Miocene extension likely initiated with crustal-scale heating marking the impingement of the Yellowstone hot spot in NW Nevada. Sometime after 10 Ma, the interior of the core complex was transected by east-dipping normal faults that today define the steep eastern face of the Ruby Mountains and East Humboldt Range; these face west-dipping normal faults along the west flank of the Pequop Mountains and Spruce Mountains. Extension continues today at a rate of ~1 mm/yr as represented by the 2008 MW 6.0 Wells Earthquake.« less
  2. During the early Eocene, Patagonia had highly diverse floras that are primarily known from compression and pollen fossils. Fossil wood studies from this epoch are scarce in the region and largely absent from the Laguna del Hunco flora, which has a highly diverse and excellently preserved compression assemblage. A collection of 26 conifer woods from the Laguna del Hunco fossil-lake beds (early Eocene, ca. 52 Ma) from central-western Patagonia was studied, of which 12 could be identified to genus. The dominant species is Phyllocladoxylon antarcticum , which has affinity with early-diverging Podocarpaceae such as Phyllocladus and Prumnnopitys . A single specimen of Protophyllocladoxylon francisiae probably represents an extinct group of Podocarpaceae. In addition, two taxonomic units of cf. Cupressinoxylon with putative affinity to Podocarpaceae were found. Diverse Podocarpaceae taxa consistent with the affinities of these woods were previously reported from vegetative and reproductive macrofossils as well as pollen grains from the same source unit. Some of the woods have galleries filled with frass. Distinct growth ring boundaries indicate seasonality, inferred to represent seasonal light availability. Growth ring widths suggest that the woods came from mature trees, whereas the widths and types of some rings denote near-uniform temperature and water availabilitymore »conditions.« less
  3. Understanding the tectonic and landscape evolution of the Colorado Plateau−southern Rocky Mountains area requires knowledge of the Laramide stratigraphic development of the San Juan Basin. Laramide sediment-transport vectors within the San Juan Basin are relatively well understood, except for those of the Nacimiento and Animas formations. Throughout most of the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico and adjacent Colorado, these Paleocene units are mudstone-dominated fluvial successions intercalated between the lowermost Paleocene Kimbeto Member of the Ojo Alamo Sandstone and the basal strata of the lower Eocene San Jose Formation, both sandstone-dominated fluvial deposits. For the Nacimiento and Animas formations, we present a new lithostratigraphy that provides a basis for basin-scale interpretation of the Paleocene fluvial architecture using facies analysis, paleocurrent measurements, and 40Ar/ 39Ar sanidine age data. In contrast to the dominantly southerly or southeasterly paleoflow exhibited by the underlying Kimbeto Member and the overlying San Jose Formation, the Nacimiento and Animas formations exhibit evidence of diverse paleoflow. In the southern and western part of the basin during the Puercan, the lower part of the Nacimiento Formation was deposited by south- or southeast-flowing streams, similar to those of the underlying Kimbeto Member. This pattern of southeasterly paleoflow continued duringmore »the Torrejonian in the western part of the basin, within a southeast-prograding distributive fluvial system. By Torrejonian time, a major east-northeast–flowing fluvial system, herein termed the Tsosie paleoriver, had entered the southwestern part of the basin, and a switch to northerly paleoflow had occurred in the southern San Juan Basin. The reversal of paleoslope in the southern part of the San Juan Basin probably resulted from rapid subsidence in the northeast part of the basin during the early Paleocene. Continued Tiffanian-age southeastward progradation of the distributive fluvial system that headed in the western part of the basin pushed the Tsosie paleoriver beyond the present outcrop extent of the basin. In the eastern and northern parts of the San Juan Basin, paleoflow was generally toward the south throughout deposition of the Nacimiento and the Animas formations. An important exception is a newly discovered paleodrainage that exited the northeastern part of the basin, ∼15 km south of Dulce, New Mexico. There, an ∼130-m-thick Paleocene sandstone (herein informally termed the Wirt member of the Animas Formation) records a major east-flowing paleoriver system that aggraded within a broad paleovalley carved deeply into the Upper Cretaceous Lewis Shale. 40Ar/ 39Ar dating of detrital sanidine documents a maximum depositional age of 65.58 ± 0.10 Ma for the Wirt member. The detrital sanidine grains are indistinguishable in age and K/Ca values from sanidines of the Horseshoe ash (65.49 ± 0.06 Ma), which is exposed 10.5 m above the base of the Nacimiento Formation in the southwestern part of the basin. The Wirt member may represent the deposits of the Tsosie paleoriver where it exited eastward from the basin. Our study shows that the evolution of Paleocene fluvial systems in the San Juan Basin was complex and primarily responded to variations in subsidence-related sedimentary accommodation within the basin.« less
  4. The Cook-Austral volcanic lineament extends from Macdonald Seamount (east) to Aitutaki Island (west) in the South Pacific Ocean and consists of hotspot-related volcanic islands, seamounts, and atolls. The Cook-Austral volcanic lineament has been characterized as multiple overlapping, age-progressive hotspot tracks generated by at least two mantle plumes, including the Arago and Macdonald plumes, which have fed volcano construction for ~20 m.y. The Arago and Macdonald hotspot tracks are argued to have been active for at least 70 m.y. and to extend northwest of the Cook-Austral volcanic lineament into the Cretaceous-aged Tuvalu-Gilbert and Tokelau Island chains, respectively. Large gaps in sampling exist along the predicted hotspot tracks, complicating efforts seeking to show that the Arago and Macdonald hotspots have been continuous, long-lived sources of hotspot volcanism back into the Cretaceous. We present new major- and trace-element concentrations and radiogenic isotopes for three seamounts (Moki, Malulu, Dino) and one atoll (Rose), and new clinopyroxene 40Ar/39Ar ages for Rose (24.81 ± 1.02 Ma) and Moki (44.53 ± 10.05 Ma). All volcanoes are located in the poorly sampled region between the younger Cook-Austral and the older, Cretaceous portions of the Arago and Macdonald hotspot tracks. Absolute plate motion modeling indicates that the Rose andmore »Moki volcanoes lie on or near the reconstructed traces of the Arago and Macdonald hotspots, respectively, and the 40Ar/39Ar ages for Rose and Moki align with the predicted age progression for the Arago (Rose) and Macdonald (Moki) hotspots, thereby linking the younger Cook-Austral and older Cretaceous portions of the long-lived (>70 m.y.) Arago and Macdonald hotspot tracks.« less
  5. Central Baja California (BC) experienced tectonism and volcanism that shaped the landscape from the Miocene to Recent. One important feature is the San Ignacio trough (SIT) that hosted a marine seaway or embayment and acted as a physical barrier to animal and plant migration. This barrier may be responsible for a well-known break in the DNA, N and S of this region. Central BC has also hosted contemporary voluminous and chemically diverse volcanism. Radiometric ages provide important constraints on the origins and longevity of critical topographic features. The Baja GeoGenomics research group is investigating the nature and timing of Pliocene marine and tidal deposits in the NE-oriented, low-lying SIT, located W of the peninsular divide. These new data reveal that the Sierra San Francisco, a highland volcanic area immediately N of the SIT, is a series of volcanoes constructed of dacitic and andesitic Peleean domes with voluminous lahar and pyroclastic flow deposits. These calcalkaline rocks were previously thought to be subduction-related magmatism and part of the early to middle Miocene (~2412 Ma) Comondu Group. However, zircon U-Pb and 40Ar/39Ar dates yield ages of 11-9 Ma. These data indicate the Sierra San Francisco erupted post-subduction and is not part of themore »lithologically similar but older Comondu Group. Within the SIT, 12km NE of San Ignacio at 200 m asl, newly mapped marine tidal deposits, informally called the San Regis beds, indicate that the SIT has been significantly uplifted. Mafic scoria interbedded in tidal deposits yield a groundmass 40Ar/39Ar age of about 4.2 0.1 Ma. San Regis tidal beds are unconformably overlain by a rhyolite ash-flow tuff from the Quaternary La Reforma caldera situated to the E, on the Gulf of California coast. The highly mobile ash cloud flowed W into the SIT at least as far as the San Regis beds locality NE of San Ignacio. The tuff yielded a preliminary U-Pb zircon age of 1.09 0.04 Ma and an 40Ar/39Ar anorthoclase age of 1.11± 0.01 Ma. These dates indicate that the ash-flow was one of the latest erupted from the caldera and its distribution was in part controlled by the SIT. In BC genetic diversity along the peninsula appears to change at the latitude of the SIT. Tidal and volcanic deposits suggest this topographic low persisted for over 4Ma and remains a distinctive feature in the topography today.« less