International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 103, Issue 4, pp 1023–1036 | Cite as

Origin and age of ultramafic rocks and gabbros in the southern Puna of Argentina: an alleged Ordovician suture revisited

  • Udo Zimmermann
  • Heinrich Bahlburg
  • Klaus Mezger
  • Jasper Berndt
  • Suzanne Mahlburg Kay
Original Paper


Ultramafic rocks and gabbros are exposed in the southern Puna (NW Argentina) in tectonic association with continental arc-related Ordovician (volcano) sedimentary successions and granitoids. The origin of this mafic rock suite has been debated for three decades as either representing an Ordovician terrane suture, primitive Ordovician arc-related rocks or relics of the pre-Ordovician basement in tectonic contact with the Ordovician retro-arc basin successions. We present the first U–Pb ages of primary and inherited zircon from gabbros of this mafic–ultramafic assemblage. LA-ICP-MS analyses on cores and rims of these zircon grains yielded a concordia age of 543.4 ± 7.2 Ma for the gabbroic rocks. Other analysed zircons have Mesoproterozoic, and Early Ediacaran core and rim ages indicating that the magmas also assimilated Meso- and Neoproterozoic crustal material prior to final crystallization. The mafic rocks witnessed higher metamorphic grade than associated Ordovician rocks, which are unmetamorphosed or only affected by anchimetamorphism. The gabbros are mostly tholeiitic and enriched in Zr, Th, as well as other incompatible elements and have εNdt=540Ma ranging from 1.3 to 7.4 with most of the values between 5 and 7. 147Sm/144Nd ratios show evidence of weak crustal contamination. The mafic rocks do not reveal any affinity to mid-ocean ridge basalts in their geochemistry but point instead to an emplacement in an active plate margin arc environment. Chromites from ultramafic rocks show typical Ti, Al, Cr#, Fe3+ abundances found in magmatic arc rocks. The formation of the gabbros and the associated ultramafic rocks in the southern Argentine Puna is related to the evolution of the margin of the Pampia terrane, including the Puncoviscana basin, during the Late Neoproterozoic and earliest Cambrian. In contrast to previous interpretations, the rocks predate the Ordovician evolution of the Central proto-Andean active margin. Consequently, interpretations assuming these rocks to represent an oceanic terrane suture of Ordovician age have to be dismissed as much as all palaeotectonic models that define Ordovician terranes in the Central Andes based on assumption that the ultramafic rocks and gabbros exposed in the southern Puna mark plate boundaries.


Argentina Western Gondwana margin Puna–Famatina magmatic arc Ultramafic and mafic rocks Pampia Terrane 

Supplementary material

531_2014_1020_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (2 mb)
Fig. 1 data repository: a) Detailed map of the exposures in the southern Sierra de Calalaste. b) Detailed map of the exposures south of Salar de Pocitos (JPEG 2021 kb)
531_2014_1020_MOESM2_ESM.xls (118 kb)
Table 1 supplementary material: Geochemical data for all samples in this study. wt% = weight per cent; ppm = parts per million; LOI = loss on ignition; TC = sample associated with the Tolar Chico Formation; TOL = samples associated with the Tolillar Formation; SC = Sierra de Calalaste; AF = Quebrada Volcán (Antofalla). Light grey fields indicate cumulates. <xx = below the detection limit. Values for crustal thickness after Mantle and Collins (2008) (XLS 117 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Udo Zimmermann
    • 1
  • Heinrich Bahlburg
    • 2
  • Klaus Mezger
    • 3
  • Jasper Berndt
    • 4
  • Suzanne Mahlburg Kay
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Petroleum Engineering National IOR CenterUniversity of StavangerStavangerNorway
  2. 2.Institut für Geologie und PaläontologieWestfälische Wilhelms-UniversitätMünsterGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Geological SciencesUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  4. 4.Institut für MineralogieWestfälische Wilhelms-UniversitätMünsterGermany
  5. 5.Department of Geological SciencesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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