International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 107, Issue 7, pp 2491–2515 | Cite as

New 40Ar–39Ar dating of Lower Cretaceous basalts at the southern front of the Central High Atlas, Morocco: insights on late Mesozoic tectonics, sedimentation and magmatism

  • G. Moratti
  • M. Benvenuti
  • A. P. Santo
  • M. A. Laurenzi
  • E. Braschi
  • S. Tommasini
Original Paper


This study is based upon a stratigraphic and structural revision of a Middle Jurassic–Upper Cretaceous mostly continental succession exposed between Boumalne Dades and Tinghir (Southern Morocco), and aims at reconstructing the relation among sedimentary, tectonic and magmatic processes that affected a portion of the Central High Atlas domains. Basalts interbedded in the continental deposits have been sampled in the two studied sites for petrographic, geochemical and radiogenic isotope analyses. The results of this study provide: (1) a robust support to the local stratigraphic revision and to a regional lithostratigraphic correlation based on new 40Ar–39Ar ages (ca. 120 Ma) of the intervening basalts; (2) clues for reconstructing the relation between magma emplacement in a structural setting characterized by syn-depositional crustal shortening pre-dating the convergent tectonic inversion of the Atlasic rifted basins; (3) a new and intriguing scenario indicating that the Middle Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous basalts of the Central High Atlas could represent the first signal of the present-day Canary Islands mantle plume impinging, flattening, and delaminating the base of the Moroccan continental lithosphere since the Jurassic, and successively dragged passively by the Africa plate motion to NE. The tectono-sedimentary and magmatic events discussed in this paper are preliminarily extended from their local scale into a peculiar geodynamic setting of a continental plate margin flanked by the opening and spreading Central Atlantic and NW Tethys oceans. It is suggested that during the late Mesozoic this setting created an unprecedented condition of intraplate stress for concurrent crustal shortening, related mountain uplift, and thinning of continental lithosphere.


Central High Atlas Late Mesozoic basalts 40Ar–39Ar dating Geochemistry Sr–Nd radiogenic isotopes Tectono-sedimentary evolution 



The authors wish to thank Mohamed Gouiza and Dominik Letsch for their accurate reviews that greatly helped to improve the manuscript. The authors also wish to acknowledge Professors Ahmed and Abdellah Algouti of the Cadi Ayyad University of Marrakech for their unvaluable support during fieldwork. The research has benefitted from University of Florence (I-Fund programme, Fondi di Ateneo, 2012–2016), CNR-IGG (Geological Mapping Funds), and PRIN 20158A9CBM grants.

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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNR, Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse-Sede Secondaria FirenzeFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraUniversità degli Studi di FirenzeFlorenceItaly
  3. 3.CNR, Istituto di Geoscienze e GeorisorsePisaItaly

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