A thick succession of continental redbeds was deposited in a 50 km wide intra-arc basin on the Andean active continental margin in the Atacama region of northern Chile during early Cretaceous times. Upper Jurassic to early Cretaceous marine limestones were buried by the seaward progradation of a succession of coastal dunes, saline lakes and sandflats. Aeolian dune fields migrating towards the east across these coastal plains became stabilized by the growth of vegetation. Interdune alluvial areas between the sand dunes and dune fields developed into extensive alluvial braid plains which were in turn superimposed by alluvial fans. These fans were inundated by a regionally extensive saline lake produced by tectonic or volcanic damming of the sedimentary basin. This lake dried up leaving a large area of playa-lake mudflats. The climate was warm and semi-arid with a low and seasonal rainfall. Parts of the area supported a substantial vegetation of woody plants, together with a vertebrate fauna of dinosaurs, pterosaurs and crocodiles. The continental redbeds were derived from a volcanic source and were deposited on continental crust in a deep but narrow, north-south elongated, fault-bounded graben. This extensional basin formed in an intra-arc setting within an active andesitic volcanic chain. Upwards-coarsening sedimentary successions were the product of uplift of the fault-bounded margins of the basin.
ASJC Scopus subject areas