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Coral patch reef system and associated facies from southwestern Gondwana: paleoenvironmental evolution of the Oxfordian shallow-marine carbonate platform at Portada Covunco, Neuquén Basin, Argentina

Abstract

During the Middle Oxfordian, the epicontinental shelf of the Neuquén Basin was a site of major coralline evolution and reef building. This work expounds the studies performed on the La Manga patch reefs at Portada Covunco locality, near Zapala city, Neuquén province. Based on the results of 12 facies/microfacies types and the vertical succession of coral morphotypes a shallowing-upward trend ranging from a shallow subtidal-lagoon- to intertidal settings is inferred. The microfacies model suggests an ooidal shoal area in the highest energy zone and various patch reefs on the shallow carbonate platform. Autochthonous reefal facies comprise a low diversity of platy coral and mixed coral-siliceous sponge framestone, ramose coral bafflestone, and microbial bindstone. Non-reefal facies are composed of ooidal packstone, bedded bioclastic wackestone-packstone, and marl levels. Several shallowing-upward episodes are evidenced by local erosional surfaces (main exposure surface-MES). The succession of platy corals (exclusively Australoseris) followed by ramose corals (Etallonasteria, Stelidioseris, and Stephanastrea rollieri) probably reflects local environmental changes. The upward change in reefal composition is best interpreted in response to extrinsic physical parameters (local relatively minor sea-level fluctuations). Siliceous sponges occur in low percentages. The La Manga reefal succession could be correlated with the “global carbonate reef event”. This event occurred in most basins associated with the Tethyan oceanic belt and the North Atlantic Ocean, in low paleolatitude. The Portada Covunco reefs grew at higher paleolatitudes (nearly 39° south), within an embayment of the Neuquén Basin, with open circulation to the paleo-Pacific Ocean on the southwestern margin of the Gondwana realm.

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Acknowledgements

MB, NC, and CA were financially supported by CONICET. HL received a travel grant within the Academic Interchange Program of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. We are especially indebted to Dr. W. Volkheimer for his continuous support of our work and to Dr. P. Narváez and Dr. J. D´Angelo (IANIGLA, Mendoza) for their assistance during the field work. We thank R. Cocca (Dirección Provincial de Minería, Zapala) for his friendly assistance to HL during field work. Thin-sections were prepared at the INGEIS, University Buenos Aires and coral sections at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, IGL, ERNO (Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico). The figures were prepared by R. Bottero (IANIGLA, CONICET-Mendoza) and G. Giordanengo (INGEIS, CONICET-UBA). We thank T. Helm for his help correcting the English. Dr. N. Olivier and an anonymous reviewer are thanked for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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Beresi, M.S., Cabaleri, N.G., Löser, H. et al. Coral patch reef system and associated facies from southwestern Gondwana: paleoenvironmental evolution of the Oxfordian shallow-marine carbonate platform at Portada Covunco, Neuquén Basin, Argentina. Facies 63, 4 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10347-016-0486-4

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Keywords

  • Middle Oxfordian
  • La Manga Formation
  • Coral reefs
  • Facies/microfacies
  • Paleoenvironments
  • Argentina
  • Neuquén Basin