Abstract

Three distinct radiolarian assemblages were obtained in this study; two of them were extracted from large blocks of radiolarites included in a mélange NW of Lake Sevan (Dzknaget). The latest Tithonian-Late Valanginian assemblage comes from a coherent sequence of 6–7 m-thick radiolarites with intercalations of lavas and rounded blocks of shallow-water limestones. The Late Barremian-Early Aptian assemblage found in the second block allows correlation with radiolarites dated recently in Karabagh. A third radiolarian assemblage comes from Vedi and establishes that radiolarian ooze was accumulated in the Tethyan realm of the Lesser Caucasus until at least the middle Albian. A synthesis of all available micropaleontological (radiolarian) and geochronological ages for the ophiolites present in Armenia and Karabagh points to the following scenario for their geological evolution: the initial phase of oceanic floor spreading was under way during the Late Triassic (Carnian) or even slightly before; the bulk of oceanic lithosphere preserved today in the Lesser Caucasus was formed during the Jurassic; evidence for subaerial volcanic activity is recorded in tuffite intercalations in the Middle-Upper Jurassic radiolarian cherts; an oceanic volcanic plateau was formed during the Late Barremian-Aptian (or possibly even before) while the obduction of ophiolites took place during the Coniacian-Santonian.

The geological history of ophiolites in the Lesser Caucasus shares a number of similarities with the Izmir-Ankara-Erzincan suture zone (i.e. initiation of ocean spreading during the Carnian, obduction after the Cenomanian), but there are also some differences especially with respect to the timing of the oceanic plateau emplacement.

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