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Three main geological units were involved in the Early Palaeozoic history of South America: (1) autochthonous intracratonic and pericratonic basins developed around the Gondwana basement (e.g. the Central Andean basin, CAB); (2) volcano-sedimentary basins marginal to Gondwana (e.g. Famatina and Puna volcanic belts); (3) crustal fragments accreted to the Andean margin through the Palaeozoic (e.g. Precordillera terrane). Knowledge of brachiopods, trilobites and bivalves has increased substantially over recent years, leading to the assembly of a more complete dataset. Furongian–Tremadocian trilobites from Famatina, western Puna and the CAB are mostly widespread forms (Olenid Fauna); however, the record of Amzasskiella and Onychopyge suggests a connection with East Gondwana, Siberia and Kazakhstan. At that time, the Central Andean brachiopods and bivalves show links with Iberia, Bohemia and North Africa. Floian trilobites from these regions show a complex array of endemic and peri-Gondwanan forms, indicative of relatively free migration for some taxa around Gondwana. Coeval brachiopods from Famatina and western Puna volcaniclastic rocks are of Celtic type, having some taxa in common with coeval faunas from south Peru, which would support the existence of a long and nearly continuous volcanic arc marginal to the Iapetus Ocean. Cambrian to Middle Ordovician platform carbonate rocks are confined to the Precordillera basin. Trilobites from the Lower and Upper Cambrian limestones of the Precordillera include key genera indicating Laurentian affinities (Arcuolenellus, Madarocephalus, Plethopeltis). Associated rhynchonelliformean brachiopods (e.g. Nisusia, Wimanella) are also typical of low-latitude palaeocontinents. Trilobites from the upper Tremadocian–Floian sequences of the Precordillera match those of the Bathyurid Fauna, whereas associated brachiopods include a high percentage of Laurentian taxa. From the Floian, a biotic exchange with Gondwana and Baltica becomes evident in the Precordilleran trilobite faunas. By Darriwilian times, Precordilleran brachiopods form a well-defined low-latitude realm, but numerous Celtic and Baltic taxa immigrated into the basin. By the Sandbian, affinities of Precordilleran brachiopods shift to West Gondwanan (North Africa, Armorica, Perunica and central Andes), probably reflecting the accretion of the Precordillera (Cuyania) terrane to the proto-Andean margin, although some mixed faunas persist. The low-richness CAB brachiopod, bivalve and trilobite assemblages display stronger ‘Mediterranean’ affinities than those from the Precordillera. In summary, there are abundant palaeontological data supporting the view that the Precordillera is a Laurentian-derived far-travelled microcontinent accreted to Gondwana during the Early Palaeozoic. A new early Middle Ordovician reconstruction of the southern and central proto-Andean margin is based on recently published geological data as well as the new palaeontological evidence summarized in this paper.

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