Abstract

One of the most important outcrops of uppermost Cretaceous (Campanian–Maastrichtian) sedimentary rocks in the southern high latitudes occurs within the James Ross Island group, northeastern Antarctic Peninsula. These rocks comprise a 1500–2000 m thick sequence of predominantly shallow marine clastic sediments that were deposited within a retro-arc basin. They are virtually undeformed and have yielded prolific invertebrate and vertebrate faunas, and a wide range of plant taxa. Campanian–Maastrichtian strata are contained within two component formations of the Upper Cretaceous-lower Tertiary Marambio Group. The lower Santa Marta Formation is approximately 1100m thick and has three constituent members. Ammonites within the Santa Marta Formation indicate an early to late Campanian age assignment. Dinoflagellates suggest that the lower levels of the formation may range into the Santonian Stage. In the northern James Ross Island to Vega Island region there is a conformable transition into the overlying López de Bertodano Formation. Here the basal Cape Lamb Member is unconformably overlain by the Sandwich Bluff Member. Although there are some lithological and fauna1 discrepancies, which are attributed to marked lateral facies changes across the basin, it is believed that the Cape Lamb Member can be correlated with the lower to middle regions of the 1200 m thick sequence of undifferentiated López de Bertodano Formation lithologies exposed on Seymour Island. Molluscan data indicate a late Campanian–Palaeocene age range for this upper formation. Dinoflagellates again suggest that the lowest beds may be slightly older. The correlation presented provides the basis for a formal subdivision of the Campanian and Maastrichtian stages in the southern high latitudes. It has also revealed two major basin shallowing events (in the late Campanian–early Maastrichtian and latest Maastrichtian, respectively) and the existence of a major fault/fault zone across southeastern James Ross Island. The improved temporal framework will aid late Cretaceous palaeoclimatic and palaeobiological studies in Antarctica.

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