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Andean geology

On-line version ISSN 0718-7106


TURIENZO, Martín et al. Cenozoic structural evolution of the Argentinean Andes at 34°40'S: A close relationship between thick and thin-skinned deformation. AndGeo [online]. 2012, vol.39, n.2, pp.317-357. ISSN 0718-7106.

In the Argentinean side of the Andes at 34°40'S, the Cenozoic Andean orogeny produced the thick-skinned Malargüe fold-and-thrust belt and the easternmost basement uplift of the Cordillera Frontal. Integrating balanced structural cross-sections with previous studies of Cenozoic synorogenic rocks and 40Ar/39Ar ages of coeval volcanic and subvolcanic rocks, we propose a Miocene to Quaternary sequential structural evolution of this sector of the Andes. Andean deformation in the study area begun around 14.5 Ma with the growth of thick-skinned structures at the western region, formed by large basement wedges that propagated along detachment horizons within the cover generating thin-skinned structures. The development of these genetically linked thick and thin-skinned structures finished with the insertion of a third basement wedge and its associated deformation in cover rocks along the Sosneado thrust, before the extrusion of 10.8 Ma volcanic rocks. These structures imply ~10 km of shortening, representing an important Middle Miocene compressive period (2.7 mm/a). Systems of fractures measured in basement, cover and subvolcanic rocks indicate an E-W direction of compression. A supercritical Coulomb wedge attained after the Middle Miocene deformation, was responsible of new basement-involved faulting into the foreland, the west-dipping Carrizalito thrust. The absence of efficient detachment levels in the cover rocks of the eastern region difficulted the development of large basement wedges and instead important backthrusting occurred in the hangingwall of the Carrizalito thrust. Widespread subvolcanic rocks (10.5 to 5.5 Ma) exposed in this region suggest a close relationship between magmatism and antithetic faulting. With continuing compression, the Carrizalito thrust breaks through to the surface thrusting pre-Jurassic and Mesozoic sequences over Cenozoic rocks although in the southern region it remains as a blind thrust. This different configuration along the strike of the Carrizalito thrust is due to an ENE trending oblique fault. Thick-skinned structures in the eastern sector, that involve ~4 km of shortening, were covered discordantly by horizontal basalts of ~0.5 Ma. A shortening rate of 0.42 mm/a from Late Miocene to Middle Pleistocene indicates that Andean contraction diminished, which is in agreement with most geodynamic models of plate tectonics.

Keywords : Andean tectonic; Structural evolution; Thick and thin-skinned deformation; Argentinean Andes.

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