Timing of deep-water slope evolution constrained by large-n detrital and volcanic ash zircon geochronology, Cretaceous Magallanes Basin, Chile
Romans, Brian W.
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Deciphering depositional age from deposits that accumulate in deep-water slope settings can enhance understanding of shelf-margin evolutionary timing, as well as controlling mechanisms in ancient systems worldwide. Basin analysis has long employed biostratigraphy and/or tephrochronology to temporally constrain ancient environments. However, due to poor preservation of index fossils and volcanic ash beds in many deepwater systems, deducing the timing of slope evolution has proven challenging. Here, we present >6600 new U-Pb zircon ages with stratigraphic information from an ~100-kmlong by ~2.5-km-thick outcrop belt to elucidate evolutionary timing for a Campanian– Maastrichtian slope succession in the Magallanes Basin, Chile. Results show that the succession consists of four stratigraphic intervals, which characterize four evolutionary phases of the slope system. Overall, the succession records 9.9 ± 1.4 m.y. (80.5 ± 0.3 Ma to 70.6 ± 1.5 Ma) of graded clinoform development punctuated by out-of-grade periods distinguished by enhanced coarse-grained sediment bypass downslope. Synthesis of our results with geochronologic, structural, and stratigraphic data from the basin suggests that slope evolution was largely controlled by an overall decline in basin subsidence from 82 to 74 Ma. In addition to providing insight into slope evolution, our results show that the reliability of zircon-derived depositional duration estimates for ancient sedimentary systems is controlled by: (1) the proportion of syndepositionally formed zircon in a stratigraphic interval; (2) the magnitude of the uncertainty on interval-bounding depositional ages relative to the length of time evaluated; and (3) the geologic time (i.e., period/era) over which the system was active.