Swiss Journal of Geosciences

, Volume 100, Issue 3, pp 371–381

Absolute dating of the youngest sediments of the Swiss Molasse basin by apatite fission track analysis



A set of ash layer samples within the uppermost Upper Freshwater Molasse (OSM) sediments (N and E of Frauenfeld, Switzerland) was dated by apatite fission track (FT) means. The ages indicate an early Tortonian (perhaps latest Serravallian) eruption and sedimentation age of 11.5 ± 0.3 Ma. The age is in agreement with time constraints by Mammalian relicts which point to MN7-8. Due to the position of the ash layers close to the erosional gap and overlying Quaternary cover, the age represents a maximum age for the cessation of OSM sedimentation in the Swiss Molasse Basin. However, the end of Molasse sedimentation in this region had not stopped before the cover of OSM sediments by volcanic ash layers at the Höwenegg volcano (southern Germany), an event further constrained by an apatite FT age of 9.8 (−0.7/+0.8) Ma from a hornblende-bearing ash layer at Höwenegg. An isolated bentonitic ash layer occurring 25 km to the WSW of the main set of dated ashes (near Humlikon) has an age component identical to the OSM ash layers near Frauenfeld. The age suggests a source for this material within the Hegau, but is too young to be related to the volcanic activity at the Kaiserstuhl.

The apatites from the ash layer samples show two distinct compositional populations, one very close to a Cl end member and one with apatites of equal proportions of Cl and OH end member. These populations are interpreted to have possibly originated from at least two distinct igneous sources for the ashes, separated by their eruption site or eruption time or both. The distinct compositional data on the volcanic apatites may provide a basis to clarify their origin in future work.


Molasse basin Upper Freshwater Molasse Hegau volcanoes ash layer apatite composition fission track dating 


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Copyright information

© Birkhaueser 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mineralogisch-Geochemisches InstitutAlbert-Ludwigs-UniversitätFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Natural History Museum, GeologyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety InspectorateVilligen-HSKSwitzerland

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