Sedimentology and paleoenvironments of the La Laja Formation (Cambrian), Quebrada La Laja, Sierra Chica de Zonda, San Juan, Argentina.

Fernando J. Gomez, Ricardo A. Astini


The La Laja Formation is a key unit regarding the hypothesis of the Argentine Precordillera as a Laurentia-derived allochtonous terrane in the south central Andes. Together with the Cerro Totora Formation it comprises the oldest unit exposed at the base of the Lower Paleozoic carbonate platform of the Precordillera. According to previous work these units record the rifting-drifting history of this terrane exotic to Gondwana. The La Laja Formation contrasts with the rest of the overlying units of the Cambro-Ordovician carbonate platform by being partly mixed carbonate-siliciclastic. A detailed facies analysis of the five recognized members in the reference section at Quebrada La Laja (Sierra Chica de Zonda, San Juan Province) allow the recognition of 19 microfacies grouped into four main environmentally significant associations: 1) a storm-influenced, deep subtidal environment with variable influx of fine siliciclastic sediments; 2) shallow subtidal, 3) mixed shallow subtidal and 4) shallow subtidal to intertidal occasionally with well developed high-frequency tidal flat cycles. No deeper basinal or slope facies were found. In contrast, the unit largely records shallow-marine facies with some evidence of subaerial exposure. Medium to coarse, calcareous, feldspar-rich sandstones and sandy limestones characterize the El Estero Member. The base of the Soldano Member shows profuse development of cyclicity with capping oolitic shoals. This member and the upper Juan Pobre Member contain deeper subtidal intervals, below the storm weather wave base, with high percentages of fine terrigenous material represented by shaly marls and nodular limestones. Skeletal-rich and oolite-rich storm beds are recorded within them. Relative shallowing to subaerial environments recorded within the Rivadavia and Las Torres members, with the development of ribbon limestones, intraclastic rudstones, microkarstic surfaces and exposure breccias. Herringbone cross-bedded oolite shoals are common at the top of the uppermost Las Torres Member. The transition into the overlying Zonda Formation is represented by an abrupt rearrangement of the depositional systems and development of meter-scale microbial-rich peritidal cycles. Several orders of superposed cyclicity are recorded within the La Laja Formation. Larger-scale cycles ('Grand Cycles') are inferred from alternating members with important amounts of siliciclastics, whereas meter-scale cycles indicate higher frequency superposed mechanisms. Altogether these show a complex depositional history linking environmental and tectono-eustatic signatures.

How to cite this article Gomez, F.; Astini, R. 2010, Sedimentology and paleoenvironments of the La Laja Formation (Cambrian), Quebrada La Laja, Sierra Chica de Zonda, San Juan, Argentina.. Revista Geológica de Chile 33 (1): 19-46. [doi:]