New evidence for Late Mesozoic-Early Cenozoic evolution of the Chilean Andes in the Upper Tinguiririca Valley (35°s), central Chile

Reynaldo Charrier, Andre R. Wyss, John J. Flynn, Carl C. Swisher, Mark A. Norell, Franyo Zapatta, Malcolm C. McKenna, Michael J. Novacek

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New geologic, paleontologic and isotopic geochronometric results from the Termas del Flaco region in the upper Tinguiririca River valley in central Chile demand considerable revision of the accepted geotectonic history of the Andean Main Range in this region. A diverse, transitional Eocene-Oligocene aged, land-mammal fauna was recovered from several sites in volcaniclastic sediments of the Coya-Machalí (=Abanico) Formation. Major results of our study include: 1) The 1000+ m thick studied deposits, previously attributed to the Cretaceous Colimapu Formation, belong to the Coya-Machalí (=Abanico) Formation. Radioisotopic data from levels immediately above (31.5 Ma) and below (37.5 Ma) the fossiliferous horizon indicate a latest Eocene to early Oligocene age for the basal part of the formation and the fauna contained in it. 2) The fossiliferous unit rests with slight angular offset on different Mesozoic units: "Brownish-red Clastic Unit" (BRCU) and Baños del Flaco Formation; in a limited area it also overlies a white tuff dated at 104 Ma. 3) The contacts just discussed (none of which is attribut-able to faulting), demonstrate the existence of two, or possibly three, unconformities in the region. 4) Sedimentological criteria argue against reference of the BRCU to the Colimapu Formation, and imply correlation of the former unit to basal levels with in the late Cretaceous Neuquén Group of western Argentina. 5) The Coya-Machalí Formation, previously viewed as representing the western volcanic equivalent of Riograndico Supercycle deposits of western Argentina, is likely coeval to much younger units in that region such as the Agua de la Piedra Formation. 6) Paleomagnetic results from the fossil producing horizon indicate about 20° of post-early Oligocene, counterclockwise rotation. 7) Fossil mammals from the Coya-Machalí Formation near Termas del Flaco represent a distinct biochronologic interval not heretofore clearly recognized from elsewhere on the continent. This new fauna helps fill the long recognized post-?middle Eocene, pre-late Oligocene faunal hiatus between the Mustersan and Deseadan South American Land Mammal Ages (SALMA). In addition, it records the earliest known presence of rodents in South America and otherwise differs strongly from the enigmatic Divisaderan SALMA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-422
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of South American Earth Sciences
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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