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Temporal and spatial relationships of thick- and thin-skinned deformation: A case study from the Malargüe fold-and-thrust belt, southern Central Andes

Laura Giambiagi a , , Florencia Bechis a , Víctor García b , Alan H. Clark c

a Instituto Argentino de Nivología, Glaciología y Ciencias Ambientales CCT-CONICET, Parque San Martín s/n, Mendoza, 5500, CC 330, Argentina

b Laboratorio de Modelado Geológico (LaMoGe), Universidad de Buenos Aires, Pabellón II, Ciudad Universitaria, Capital Federal, 1428, Argentina

c Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6

ARTICLE INFO

Article history:

Received 5 June 2006 Received in revised form 21 December 2006 Accepted 15 November 2007 Available online xxxx

Keywords:

Southern Central Andes Malargüe fold-and-thrust belt Thick- and thin-skinned tectonics Inversion and thrusting Simultaneous thrusting

ABSTRACT

In this paper we analyse two end-member models of temporal and spatial interactions between thick- and thin-skinned structures in a thrust front with pre-existing rift structures. In the most commonly accepted model, a hinterland-to-foreland sequence of inversion of pre-existing normal faults is proposed. As a result, the emplacement of shallow thrust sheets in the sedimentary cover occurs before the basement inversion in the foreland. In the other model, basin inversion occurs early in the deformation history of the external part of a fold-and-thrust belt, as the result of a foreland-to-hinterland sequence of inversion. The Malargüe fold-and-thrust belt (34 36°S) formed in response to compression of the Mesozoic Neuquén basin during Neogene to Pleistocene times. Integrating detailed structural data from the northern part of this belt with new Ar/Ar dating, we propose a revised kinematic model of thick- and thin-skinned interaction and de ne the temporal-spatial evolution of the belt. Comparison of the timing of deformation in the thick- and thin-skinned areas strongly supports the hypothesis that the reactivation of normal faults was coeval with the insertion of shallow detachments and low-angle thrusting along the migrating front of the thrust belt and occurred from the foreland to the hinterland. Detachments occur at several stratigraphic horizons, including a deep basement decóllement related to the basement-involved thrusting and shallow detachments located within the Jurassic and Cretaceous beds. These shallow and deep detachments were coeval producing simultaneous development of thrusts during the complex deformation of the thrust front between 15 and 8 Ma.

© 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Many thrust belts are combinations of both thin- and thick- skinned thrustings as a result of reactivation of pre-existing anisotropies and weakness zones in the upper crust. The presence of pre-existing rift structures widely exerts an important control on thrust-belt geometry and evolution. However, the extent to which these anisotropies control regional patterns and the kinematics of deformation in a subsequently developed fold-and-thrust belt is controversial. The manner in which thin and thick-skinned related structures interact in time remains poorly constrained. This paper sheds some light on these topics by analysing the kinematic evolution of the Malargüe fold-and-thrust belt of the Southern Central Andes. The Andes of Argentina and Chile between latitudes 33° and 36° S are superimposed to the TriassicJurassic Neuquén basin. The north- ern part of this extensional trough comprises a series of NNW- trending depocentres (Fig. 1). At the latitude of the study area, the Neogene geology of the Cordillera Principal is dominated by the

Corresponding author. Fax: +54 261 5244201. E-mail addresses: lgiambia@lab.cricyt.edu.ar (L. Giambiagi), fbechis@lab.cricyt.edu.ar (F. Bechis), victorg@gl.fcen.uba.ar (V. García).

0040-1951/$ see front matter © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi: 10.1016/j.tecto.2007.11.069

Malargüe fold-and-thrust belt (Malargüe FTB) involving the Mesozoic rift sequences of the Atuel depocentre. The Malargüe FTB has been classically identied as a hybrid fold-and-thrust belt with basement thrust sheets transferring shortening to the Meso-Cenozoic sedimen- tary cover (Kozlowski et al., 1993; Manceda and Figueroa, 1995; Rojas et al., 1999; Zapata et al., 1999; Silvestro and Kraemer, 2005). This study establishes the kinematics of thin- and thick-skinned interac- tion and hence denes the temporal-spatial evolution of the northern Malargüe FTB. We present the results of newly acquired eld observations, integrated with subsurface data acquired from oil exploration. A new kinematic model, which integrates the structural data and new Ar/Ar geochronology with previous surface data and Ar/ Ar dating, is proposed for the thrust front of the northern part of the belt. A chronological study of the deformation has been used to test how thin- and thick-skinned deformational zones interact. Attention has been paid to the timing of basement fault reactivation and coeval activation of a shallow detachment in the foreland. From these observations we address the wider questions of the geometric evolution and kinematics of fold-and-thrust belts and the role of extensional structures in generating variable deformational styles. Thus, does tectonic inversion of normal faults precede thin-skinned deformation of the sedimentary sequence in the foreland, or does

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L. Giambiagi et al. / Tectonophysics xxx (2008) xxx-xxx Fig. 1. Regional location map and morphostructural

Fig. 1. Regional location map and morphostructural map of the Andes between 32° and 36° S. The location of the Malargüe fold and thrust belt, the northernmost sector of the Neuquén Basin, and the Atuel depocentre in the present-day Cordillera Principal are highlighted. The box indicates the location of the study-area and Fig. 2 .

basement inversion occur out-of-sequence after the emplacement of shallow thrust sheets. Our research demonstrates that in the northern part of the Malargüe FTB, deformation began with inversion of the rift master fault, in the foreland, and subsequently migrated to the hinterland with the simultaneous development of inverted high-angle faults, thrust faults and basement short-cut and by-pass faults.

2. Tectonic setting

The tectonic setting and evolution of southern South America is controlled by the subduction regime at the western margin of the South American plate and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge spreading rates along its eastern margin (Uliana and Biddle, 1988 ). During the Mesozoic, the western margin was the site of an active trench, a relatively narrow magmatic arc and a series of back-arc extensional basins (Charrier, 1979; Uliana and Biddle, 1988; Legarreta and Uliana, 1991). The most important of these basins was the Neuquén basin, which comprised several NNW-elongated depocentres implanted on pre-Jurassic continental crust (Vergani et al., 1995). It was initiated as a rift basin in the Late Triassic, when Chilean and central western Argentina underwent extensional tectonism (Digregorio et al., 1984;

Legarreta and Uliana, 1991 ). Marine and continental sediments were deposited in isolated depressions during the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic and are presently exposed in the Cordillera Principal (Gulisano, 1981; Uliana and Biddle, 1988; Legarreta and Gulisano, 1989). One example of these troughs is the Atuel depocentre, where the northern part of the Malargüe FTB was developed (Fig. 1). By the end of the Early Cretaceous, a major plate tectonic reorganization took place (Somoza, 1998), ending the development of the marine intra-arc and back-arc basins (Mpodozis and Ramos, 1989). Compressive tectonics along the western margin of southern South America began in the late Early Cretaceous (Mpodozis and Ramos, 1989; Cobbold and Rosello, 2003; Zapata and Folguera, 2005 ). There is, however, no evidence of this early compression in the study area, probably reecting its eastern position. At the study latitude, convergence was oblique during the Paleogene but became progres- sively more perpendicular to the trench during the Neogene with a concomitant increase in convergence rate ( Pardo Casas and Molnar, 1987; Somoza, 1998). The main components of the tectonic setting of the region are a magmatic arc along the ArgentinaChile border and a fold-and- thrust belt, which goes from the Cordillera Principal (Malargüe FTB)

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to a series of uplifted basement blocks in the Cordillera Frontal. The Malargüe FTB extends from 34° to 36°S and has developed since Miocene times in a thick-skinned style related to tectonic inversion of Mesozoic rift structures (Kozlowski, 1984; Manceda and Figueroa, 1995 ). Deformation involves pre-Jurassic basement rocks and Mesozoic rift and back-arc basin deposits. The Cordillera Principal

is underlain by Proterozoic to Paleozoic metamorphic and plutonic rocks of the Cordillera Frontal uplifted by high-angle faults along its eastern ank. The southern part of this range is uplifted by the Carrizalito fault which dies out alongside a SW-plunging anticline south of the Río Diamante (Fig. 2 ) (Kozlowski, 1984; Turienzo and Dimieri, 2005).

( Fig. 2 ) ( Kozlowski, 1984; Turienzo and Dimieri, 2005 ). Fig. 2. Simpli fi

Fig. 2. Simpli ed geological map of the Malargüe FTB, between 34°30 and 35°00 S, showing major structural features and location of cross section in Fig. 11. The area has been divided into two sectors: an eastern sector where the Upper Triassic to Upper Jurassic rocks crop out, and a western sector where the Lower Cretaceous to Neogene rocks crop out. Only the major faults have been drawn. Boxes indicate location of Figs 5 and 6. Based on Kozlowski et al. (1981) , Cruz et al. (1991), Scaricabarozzi (2003) , Kim et al. (2005) , Turienzo and Dimieri (2005) , Giambiagi et al. (2005a,b) , Bechis et al. (2005) , Giambiagi et al. (2008). D2, D3, D6, D8, D9, D10, D12, D13 and D14: location of Ar/Ar dating samples. B-B : balanced cross section of the Malargüe FTB on Fig. 11.

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3. Stratigraphic framework

The lithostratigraphic units of the Malargüe FTB are: Proterozoic to Triassic metamorphic, plutonic and volcanic rocks which constitute the basement of the belt; Upper Triassic to Lower Jurassic marine and continental rift sequences deposited in the Neuquén back-arc basin; Middle Jurassic to Cretaceous platform sequences; and Cenozoic sedimentary and volcanic rocks.

3.1. Basement rocks

Basement rocks crop out in the Cordillera Frontal, northeast of the study area (Fig. 2 ), and in the San Rafael block, east of the study area. They consist of Proterozoic metamorphic rocks unconformably over- lain by Upper Paleozoic marine black shales and continental sandstones, intruded by Upper Paleozoic granitoids (Volkheimer, 1978 ). Permian Triassic intermediate and acid volcanic rocks uncon- formably overlie the previously deformed rocks (Japas and Kleiman,

2004).

3.2. Neuquén basin in ll

The lowermost Mesozoic sequences are Late Triassic to Early Jurassic marine and uvial synrift strata, unconformably deposited over deformed basement rocks (Fig. 3). These strata crop out in the western part of the study area (Fig. 2). The deposition of the marine

massive mudstones and shales of the Arroyo Malo Formation (Riccardi et al., 1997; Riccardi and Iglesia Llanos, 1999; Lanés, 2005 ) marked the onset of extensional activity in the rift basin. The El Freno Formation crops out in the eastern sector of the Atuel depocentre and is represented by braided alluvial deposits with a predominant eastern provenance. The Puesto Araya Formation consists of slope-type fan delta deposits (lower section) related to the braided alluvial systems of the easterly El Freno Formation, and storm-dominated shelf deposits (upper section) (Lanés, 2005 ). Off-shore shelf black clays- tones were conformably deposited over the marine strata of the Puesto Araya Formation, and correspond to the Tres Esquinas Formation of Toarcian Bajocian age (Gulisano and Gutiérrez Pleiml- ing, 1994). There is no evidence of faulting during the deposition of the marine platform strata, indicating that the boundary between uvial and marine strata in the eastern part of the depocentre marks the end of the extensional phase, as was suggested by Lanés (2005). The middle Callovian to Oxfordian interval comprises clastics, carbonates and evaporites of the Tábanos Formation and the Lotena Group (Gulisano and Gutiérrez Pleimling, 1994). During Kimmeridgian times, alluvial, uvial and eolian continental clastic deposition was controlled by normal faults (Tordillo Formation) ( Ramos, 1985; Cegarra and Ramos, 1996; Giambiagi et al., 2003a,b). These continental deposits were followed by accumulation of calcareous shelf facies (Mendoza Group). Aptian to Cenomanian red continental deposits overlying these strata are associated with evaporites and marine carbonates (Rayoso Group) and Late Cenomanian to Early Campanian

(Rayoso Group) and Late Cenomanian to Early Campanian Fig. 3. Generalized stratigraphic column of the

Fig. 3. Generalized stratigraphic column of the Meso-Cenozoic units exposed in the Malargüe FTB (from Gulisano and Gutiérrez Pleimling, 1994, and Legarreta and Gulisano, 1989 ). Rift-related units, cropping out in the Atuel depocentre, are dened on the basis of the biostratigraphic zonation and correlation of Riccardi et al. (1997, 1999) and Lanés (2005) .

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continental red beds (Neuquén Group: Gulisano and Gutiérrez Pleimling, 1994, Riccardi et al., 1999). Subsequently, a transgression from the Atlantic Ocean allowed the accumulation of clastics and car- bonates (lower Malargüe Group: Barrio, 1990; Tunik, 2004), followed by ne-grained Paleocene to Eocene sedimentary rocks of lacustrine and playa lake origin (upper Malargüe Group).

3.3. Synorogenic deposits

Synorogenic sediments and volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks lling a foreland basin are represented by the Miocene Agua de la Piedra and Loma Fiera Formations, the Pliocene Río Diamante Formation, and three Pleistocene coarse conglomerate units (Mesones, La Invernada and Las Tunas Fms.). These rocks crop out in the Cuchilla de la Tristeza range ( Fig. 2) and are separated by angular unconformities. Foreland basin sedimentation began with deposition of alluvial fan and uvial systems of the Agua de la Piedra Formation over an angular uncon- formity (Combina et al., 1994; Combina and Nullo, 2005 ). This unit is composed of interbedded coarse conglomerate and sandstone with clasts from volcanic and sedimentary rocks derived from the Cordillera Principal ( Yrigoyen, 1993). The base of this formation is composed of andesitic clasts in a tuffaceous sandstone matrix. 40 Ar/ 39 Ar ages for two boulders (12.83 ± 0.10 and 13.44 ± 0.08 Ma) at the base of the Agua de la Piedra Formation suggest that the unit is younger than 13 Ma (Baldauf, 1997). The Loma Fiera Formation unconformably overlies the Agua de la Piedra Formation. This unit consists of cross-bedded tuffs containing clasts of pumice and granite, overlain by volcanic breccia, conglom- erates and tuffaceous sandstones and andesitic tuffs (Yrigoyen, 1993; Combina and Nullo, 2000), interpreted as pyroclastic and laharic deposits (Combina and Nullo, 2000). Conglomerates of this unit appear to internger with andesite ows of the Huincan Formation (Dessanti, 1959) and incorporate granitic and volcanic clasts from the Cordillera Frontal, indicating that by the time the Loma Fiera Formation was deposited the basement was already exposed. 40 Ar/ 39 Ar ages for two boulders (9.51±0.07 and 10.68±0.11 Ma) at the base of the Loma Fiera Formation (Baldauf, 1997) imply a maximum age of 9.5 Ma. The overlying conglomerates and sandstones of the Río Diamante Formation exhibit gradational contacts with the Loma Fiera Formation, indicating deposition during a time of decreasing volcanic and tectonic activity (Combina and Nullo, 1997).

3.4. Cenozoic volcanism

Atuel depocentre exhibits an asymmetric architecture interpreted by Manceda and Figueroa (1995) as representing a half- graben with west- facing polarity. Elsewhere (Giambiagi et al., 2005a, 2008; Bechis et al., 2005), we demonstrated that the principal normal faults of the Atuel depocentre have been inverted and moreover, we documented a detailed characterization of the depocentre architecture through the integration of our structural analysis of rift-related faults with previous stratigraphic and paleogeographic studies (Lanés, 2005 ). The depo- centre comprised the Arroyo Malo and Río Blanco half-grabens (Fig. 4 ), where the former is interpreted as a completely submerged sub-basin lled with marine syn-rift strata (Arroyo Malo Fm. and lower section of the Puesto Araya Fm.) and sag deposits (Tres Esquinas Fm.). Its master fault, the west-dipping NNW-trending Alumbre fault, is well exposed in the headwaters of the Alumbre creek, where it dips at a high angle towards the west with no evidence of structural inversion at shallow levels. In contrast, the Río Blanco half- graben was lled with con- tinental syn-rift strata (El Freno Fm.) and sag deposits (upper section of the Puesto Araya Fm. and Tres Esquinas Fm.), and was bounded along its eastern margin by the NNW-trending La Manga master fault. Both Alumbre and La Manga faults have been interpreted as pre-existing structures reactivated during the rifting event. This reactivation would have generated an oblique rift with WNW- and NNE-striking oblique normal faults.

4.2. Andean deformation

During Miocene to Pleistocene times, the Atuel depocentre was inverted and incorporated into the thrust sheets of the thick- skinned Malargüe FTB ( Kozlowski et al., 1993; Manceda and Figueroa, 1995 ) exerting its structural architecture a profound inuence on the development of the belt. This inuence is reected in a variety of structural styles in the study area. We identify several trends of regional structures, signicant changes in fold wavelengths and multiple detachments ( Fig. 5 ), indicating that the present-day structure of the belt is controlled by major rift-related basement- rooted faults. We argue that the mid-crustal weak zone above which basement thrusting occurs was inherited from a previous mid- crustal extensional at detachment. The propagation of inverted basement faults into the sedimentary cover generated complex structures that are restricted to narrow belts characterized by tight

The older Cenozoic igneous rocks, referred as Molles Suite Intrusives (Groeber, 1951; Volkheimer, 1978), are composed of lower Miocene basaltic and andesitic porphyry stocks associated with dacitic hypabys- sal bodies (Baldauf, 1997), exposed in the western and eastern parts of the Malargüe FTB. Intense volcanism in the Middle Miocene to Early Pliocene (Stephens et al., 1991; Baldauf et al., 1992; Ramos and Nullo, 1993; Baldauf, 1997) is grouped in the Huincan Formation. This igneous activity took place between 10.5 and 5.5 Ma (Baldauf, 1997) and comprises basaltic andesites and andesites similar in chemistry to the Teniente Volcanic Complex located tens of kilometres to the west (Nullo et al., 2006). This magmatic event has been proposed by Baldauf (1997) to have occurred during the waning stages of, or after compressive deformation in the eastern sector of the Malargüe FTB. However, we will show that this volcanic unit has the same age as the main episode of deformation.

4. Structural setting

4.1. Rift architecture

The northern part of the Neuquén basin is a predominantly NNW- trending rift comprising a series of narrow depocentres (Fig. 1). The

comprising a series of narrow depocentres ( Fig. 1 ). The Fig. 4. Block diagram illustrating

Fig. 4. Block diagram illustrating the structural architecture of the Atuel depocentre, where the main normal faults have been delineated. Note that the scale is approximate. From Giambiagi et al. (2005a, 2008) .

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L. Giambiagi et al. / Tectonophysics xxx (2008) xxx-xxx Please cite this article as: Giambiagi, L.,

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L. Giambiagi et al. / Tectonophysics xxx (2008) xxx-xxx 7 Fig. 6. Geological map of the

Fig. 6. Geological map of the eastern sector of the Malargüe FTB. Modied after Kozlowski et al. (1981) and Cruz et al. (1991) and our own observations. A-A: seismic line 16029 on Fig. 8.

folding and faulting. Deformation in these areas could have been complicated by basement short-cut faults which generated several detachment levels in the sedimentary cover. Towards the foreland

the Andean deformation developed a thin-skinned system using incompetent layers from the Neuquén and Malargüe Groups as detachment levels.

Fig. 5. Geological map of the western sector of the Malargüe FTB, based on new eld observations and previous stratigraphical studies carried out by Lanés (2005).

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5. Spatial relationship between thick- and thin-skinned structures

The Malargüe FTB can be divided into western and eastern sectors on the basis of palaeoenvironmental and tectonic relationships. Their mutual boundary is dened by the NNW-trending BorbollónLa Manga lineament, related to the La Manga master fault of the Mesozoic rift system (Figs. 2 and 4 ).

5.1. Eastern sector

The eastern sector is an emergent thrust-front system, made up of several NS to NNW-trending thrust sheets involving Cretaceous to Neogene strata in a thin-skinned tectonic style (Fig. 6). The oldest sedimentary rocks involved in the deformation are Cretaceous shales, evaporites and red beds. The stratigraphic section is dominated by several incompetent evaporite and black shale units alternating with competent sandstone units. At least two main décollements are regionally developed in the eastern zone and account for the thin- skinned architecture. The lowermost is located in the lower part of the Upper Cretaceous red beds and is present in the northern part of the study area, whereas the shallowest is recorded in the uppermost Cretaceous beds. In the northern part of the belt, in the Río Diamante area, a third decóllement is located at the base of the Upper JurassicLower Cretaceous black shale succession (Kim et al., 2005; Broens and Pereira, 2005). Three main thin-skinned thrusts have been identied in this sector: the Sosneado, Mesón, and Alquitrán faults (Kozlowski, 1984) uplifted from the upper decóllement in the uppermost Cretaceous beds (Fig. 6). The Sosneado and Mesón faults uplift the Cuchilla de la Tristeza range and are thrust-rooted into this shallow detachment. The Mesón thrust repeats the Neogene Agua de la Piedra Formation, and is a low-angle, west-dipping, fault with NS trend. This fault is associated with a hanging wall syncline, which acted as a Neogene- Quaternary foreland basin depocentre, in which thick synorogenic deposits record the growth history of the belt. The Sosneado thrust transposes the Paleogene units on top of the Agua de la Piedra and Pleistocene fanglomerates (Fig. 7 ). It strikes NS and dips 24° west. The Alquitrán fault is inferred to generate an open anticline that affects Upper Cretaceous to Neogene strata in the Cerro Alquitrán area. Fig. 8 sketches the present-day conguration of the eastern sector of the belt along the section A-Aof Fig. 6, as constrained by eld and subsurface (seismic and well) data. A migrated reection seismic dataset constrained by well log information from the Cuchilla de la Tristeza range was available in this study. Two interpretations of the seismic line 16029 have been made to identify the spatial relationship between thick- and thin-skinned structures. Interpretation A (Fig. 8A) assumes that the inversion of the La Manga normal fault accounts for the detachment in the cover and generation of the Mesón, Sosneado and Alquitrán thrusts. An alternative approach is shown in inter- pretation B (Fig. 8B), where the shallow detachment developed in an initial episode of thin-skinned deformation, not related to the inversion of the master fault, and was folded in the ensuing episode of tectonic inversion, in agreement with previous models of the northern part of the Malargüe FTB (Pereira, 2003; Kim et al., 2005 ). Both alternatives are geometrically plausible and the low resolution of seismic lines along the border between the thick- and thin-skinned zones does not allow us to discriminate between them. As we will see in next sections, we favour interpretation A because of the timing of movement of the basement and thin-skinned faults.

5.2. Western sector

In the western sector, outcropping rocks are predominantly Upper TriassicLower Jurassic rift sequences overlain by Middle Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous deposits (Fig. 5). The Upper Cretaceous and Paleogene rocks have been eroded in this domain, and Neogene synorogenic strata

been eroded in this domain, and Neogene synorogenic strata Fig. 7. The Sosneado thrust in the

Fig. 7. The Sosneado thrust in the Cuchilla de la Tristeza range. The fault places the upper part of the Malargüe Group on top of Pleistocene fanglomerates and it is covered by Holocene deposits. See map on Fig. 6 for location.

were not deposited (Fig. 3). This sector has previously been studied by Fortunatti and Dimieri (2002, 2005), who outlined several backthrusts related to the basement involvement in the deformation. The Andean structural pattern shows two predominant trends (Fig. 5): NNE-striking folds and subordinate faults; and N to NNW-striking folds and faults. The western sector is also characterized by a combination of two deforma- tional styles with large-scale open folds and narrow belts of intense east- vergent folding and faulting (Figs. 5 and 9). Large-scale anticlines with associated synclines suggest regional-scale basement uplift. In the frontal part of these inferred basement-cored folds, we propose that the displacement was mainly transferred to the sedimentary cover, generating narrow belts of intense folding of syn-rift and post-rift strata (Fig. 9). Broad, long-wavelength folds developed in the hanging walls of moderate-to-high-angle reverse faults and are considered to have formed by inversion of older normal faults (Fig.10, AB). Two structures, the La Manga and El Freno faults, are interpreted as reactivated rift- related normal faults on the basis of the highly variable thicknesses and facies of the rift sequences (Lanés, 2005), the high cut-off angles along the faults, the presence of antithetic and synthetic faults reactivated in a reverse sense (Giambiagi et al., 2005b), and syn-extensional unconfor- mities preserving the original extensional geometry. Fig. 11 is a cross-section incorporating a projection of the interpretation A of the seismic line 16029 (Fig. 8A). The cross-section has been restored with a line-length balance and constant thickness hypothesis for the sedimentary cover, and an area-balanced method for the basement. In this section, the previously identied (Fig. 4) three main basement faults are interpreted to be the principal structures of the western sector. The faults propagated upwards into the sedimentary strata, producing shortening accommodated by thrusting at depth and by folding in the upper levels of the pile, as

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L. Giambiagi et al. / Tectonophysics xxx (2008) xxx-xxx 9 Fig. 8. Seismic line 16029 located

Fig. 8. Seismic line 16029 located in the southeastern sector of the Atuel depocentre, and its structural interpretation (see Figs. 2 and 6 for location). Time to depth conversion was done using Ernesto Cristallini's Pliegues 2D program and subsurface data from the YPF.Md.NPQ.x-1 well. Middle J +K: Middle Jurassic to Cretaceous strata (Lotena Group, Tordillo Fm., and Mendoza, Rayoso and Neuquén Groups); UpperJ +K: Upper Jurassic to Cretaceous strata (Mendoza, Rayoso and Neuquén Groups), Upper K + Paleogene: Upper Cretaceous to Paleocene (Malargüe Group), AP: Agua de la Piedra Fm., LF: Loma Fiera Fm. and RD: Río Diamante Fm. (A) and (B): Two kinematic models for the interaction between thin- and thick- skinned deformational zones. Interpretation A assumes that the inversion of the master fault accounts for the detachment in the cover. An alternative approach is shown in Interpretation B, where a shallow detachment in the sedimentary cover developed rst, before the inversion of the master fault.

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L. Giambiagi et al. / Tectonophysics xxx (2008) xxx-xxx Fig. 9. A) Two different tectonic styles

Fig. 9. A) Two different tectonic styles observed in the western sector of the Malargüe FTB: narrow belts of intense folding associated with a broad open fold. B) Interpretation of A:

Large-scale anticlines with associated synclines are interpreted as regional basement uplifts during inversion of preexisting normal faults. In the frontal part of these folds, displacement is mainly transferred to the sedimentary cover generating intense folding in rift-related strata. See map on Fig. 5 for location.

fault-propagation folds. The areas of intense folding and faulting are located in front of these large-scale anticlines, as in the region east of the El Freno anticline, where the marine sag deposits are strongly deformed by kink and box folds (Fig. 10, CD). The La Manga fault system is the most signicant structure in the foothills, uplifting the Lower Mesozoic sequences on top of the Neogene synorogenic units, and has a throw of several kilometres (Kozlowski, 1984). We interpret this fault system as comprising three related structures, i.e., the Arroyo Blanco fault, the La Manga inverted normal fault, and a basement by-pass fault ( Fig. 11). This highlights an important characteristic of the basement-cover interaction along the

TriassicJurassic master fault, where multiple basement thrusts have been stacked along the eastern limit of the former rift basin. The La Manga fault can be interpreted as an inverted, west-dipping, normal fault, because rift-related Upper TriassicLower Jurassic rocks are present in its hanging wall and absent in the footwall block (Fig. 8). We infer that this fault has a convex-up geometry, cutting the basement- cover interface at a high angle and progressively decreasing in dip upwards. This geometry strongly implies the inversion of a high-angle pre-existing normal fault by upward propagation of a steep basement fault into the sedimentary cover. The La Manga by-pass fault has been inferred in the seismic line (Fig. 8). It runs along the Arroyo La Manga

seismic line ( Fig. 8 ). It runs along the Arroyo La Manga Fig. 10. Examples

Fig. 10. Examples of two broad open anticlines (A and B), and narrow tightly folded belts located in front of these anticlines (C and D). See map on Fig. 5 for location.

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11L. Giambiagi et al. / Tectonophysics xxx (2008) xxx-xxx Fig. 11. Balanced cross section B-B′
11L.
Giambiagi et al. / Tectonophysics xxx (2008) xxx-xxx
Fig. 11. Balanced cross section B-B′ of the Malargüe FTB at 34° 45′ S. See Fig. 2 for location. The cross section shows the relationship between the western thick-skinned sector and the eastern thin-skinned sector of the belt. The palinspastic
restitution shows the location of the main normal faults developed during the Triassic –Jurassic extension. During the Neogene inversion, these structures were inverted in association with the generation of basement short-cut faults: Alumbre
short-cut fault (ASF) and El Freno short-cut fault (ESF). The inversion of the La Manga fault is inferred to be associated with the generation of the La Manga by-pass fault (LMBF).
Please cite this article as: Giambiagi, L., et al., Temporal and spatial relationships of thick- and thin-skinned deformation: A case study from
the Malargüe fold-and-thrust belt, southern Central Andes, Tectonophysics (2008), doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2007.11.069

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with a NNW-strike (Fig. 5) and overturns Mesozoic beds in the Loma del Medio range ( Kozlowski et al., 1981). The Arroyo Blanco fault crops out in the Arroyo Blanco creek (Fig. 5), where it transposes Lower Jurassic sag deposits over Upper Jurassic red beds and evaporites. Open folds in the hanging wall of this moderate-to-high angle reverse fault have been disturbed by two associated backthrusts. These faults

have previously been described by Fortunatti et al. (2004) and Turienzo et al. (2004) as thin-skinned backthrusts and can be distinguished in the seismic lines (Fig. 8 ). The El Freno fault has been interpreted as a NNE-striking high- angle, reactivated fault with an associated basement short-cut fault ( Fig. 11). An abrupt stratigraphic change ( Lanés, 2005) correlates with the boundary between areas of open folding and intense folding and faulting (Giambiagi et al., 2008 ). The inversion of this fault is marked by the broad El Freno anticline in its hanging wall (Fig. 10 B). Its curved axial plane has been interpreted to reect the conguration of this normal fault at depth. Associated with this thick-skinned structure, small-scale anticlines and synclines with angular hinges (kinks and box-folds) deform the Lower Jurassic sequences, and low-angle thrusts formed above shallow detachments, in thin-skinned tectonic style (Fig. 10 , CD). The steeply-dipping to overturned beds shown by the outcrops east of the Arroyo El Freno creek reveal structural complexity. Associated with the inversion of this fault, we have inferred the presence of the El Freno basement short-cut fault to account for the generation of a broad open syncline and a low-angle thrust ( Fig. 11). The Alumbre fault is an approximately 15 km-long, NNW-striking fault with a continuous trace. It was passively uplifted in the hanging wall of the El Freno fault, preserving the inherited pattern of extensional structure at shallow levels. This fault is exposed in the headwaters of the Arroyo Alumbre creek (Fig. 5). Its orientation is consistent with the NNW-trending paleocoast and with paleocurrents ranging from SSW to NW documented by Lanés (2005). Although in outcrop it presents no evidence of structural inversion, its lower segment is inferred to have been inverted during Andean compression and to be responsible for a series of backthrusts affecting the sedimentary cover. The generation of

a short-cut fault is associated with a basement wedge and oppositely

verging cover-detached underthrusts (Figs. 5 and 11). This complex zone may have formed as a response to buttressing against a basement high, previously uplifted by the inversion of the El Freno fault. We therefore infer that the tectonic evolution of the Malargüe FTB

involved both thin-skinned tectonics along several shallow detach- ments within the Jurassic rift sequences (western sector) and Cretaceous strata (eastern sector) and basement involvement along

a deeper detachment which accommodated stacking of basement

thrust units. This model predicts that steep, basement-involved thrust-ramps in the western sector migrated upsection through cover and evolved into ats when they reached the incompetent syn-rift strata. A combination of extensional fault inversion and development of new basement short-cut faults accounts for the complex structure in the sedimentary cover.

6. Chronology of deformation

In order to constrain the age of the deformation and to choose between both interpretations of thick- and thin-skinned interaction (interpretations A and B Fig. 8 ), we analyse the timing of deformation of the principal structures, based on structural relation- ships, 40 Ar/ 39 Ar dating of tectonic and post-tectonic volcanic and subvolcanic rocks, and the age of foreland basin deposits and discontinuities separating the different sequences (Fig. 12). Nine volcanic rocks were sampled and studied by laser-induced 40 Ar/ 39 Ar step-heating procedures on hornblendes and whole-rocks (Figs. 2 and 12 ). We integrated our data with previous Ar/Ar dating studies by Baldauf (1997) and proposed a four-stage temporal model for thrust- belt development. The four phases are illustrated by cross-sections that represent time-slices from 15 to 1 Ma (Fig. 13, A-E).

6.1. Inversion of the Río Blanco half-graben (15 11 Ma)

We have previously documented the La Manga thrust system as comprising three main faults: the inverted La Manga normal fault and

an associated by-pass fault, and the Arroyo Blanco fault ( Figs. 5 and 11 ). A maximum age for displacement on the La Manga thrust is given by the age of pre-tectonic subvolcanic rocks, cropping out in the Las Bardas creek, dated at 14.48 ± 0.61 (2 σ error) Ma (Fig. 5). These rocks are folded and affected by the deformation in the hanging wall of the fault. In the thick-skinned domain, deformation was accommodated by movement along the La Manga fault prior to 10.84 Ma, the age of the CerroTordilla post-tectonic volcanic rocks (Fig. 5 ). The ages of porphyry dikes in the Río Salado area, south of the Río Atuel, assumed to be syntectonically emplaced by Baldauf (1997), indicate that displace- ment on the La Manga fault took place between 13.57 ± 0.12 and 13.43 ±

0.09 Ma (Baldauf, 1997 ). Initial movement on the La Manga fault

therefore would have occurred between 15 and 11 Ma ( Fig. 12). We propose that contractional reactivation of the Río Blanco half- graben began with rigid displacement of the wedge of rift deposits and the underlying crystalline basement rocks along the La Manga fault, being fault displacement dissipated in the cover units by folding. The syntectonical deposition of the syn-rift strata of the Agua de la Piedra Formation indicates that the anticline associated with the rst movement on the La Manga fault system would have formed between 15 and 11 Ma ( Fig. 13 B).

6.2. Breakthrough of the La Manga fault onto the sedimentary cover and

reactivation of the El Freno fault (119 Ma)

After the partial inversion of the Río Blanco half-graben, faults emanating from the master fault, such as the La Manga bypass fault ( Fig. 11) broke through the entire sedimentary section and reached the surface (Fig. 13 C). The time of breakthrough is well constrained by the age of the post-tectonic volcanics and by the angular unconformities between the synorogenic strata (Fig. 12 ). The Loma Fiera Fm. strata have lled depressions developed during the generation of the Mesón fault showing wedge geometry and internal unconformities related to the uplift of the La Manga fault system. The timing of thrusting of the Mesón fault postdates deposition of the Agua de la Piedra Formation, although was synchronous with the deposition of the Loma Fiera Formation in its hanging wall. The angular unconformity between these two synorogenic units (Fig. 8) indicates that this thrust de- veloped between 10.5 and 9.5 Ma, the age of the Loma Fiera Formation (Baldauf, 1997 ). At the same time, the internal deformation of the Río Blanco half- graben occurred through the inversion of the El Freno fault system. The age of movement along this system, related at depth to the inversion of the pre-existing El Freno normal fault, is determined by the ages of pre-tectonic volcanic rocks (11.16 ± 0.28 Ma) and post- tectonic volcanics of the Tres Lagunas hill (9.07 ±0.24 Ma) (Fig. 2). This indicates that movement along this fault was contemporaneous with the development of the Mesón thrust and La Manga bypass thrust, i.e., between 10.5 and 9 Ma, and coincided with the age of emplacement of the Cerro Blanco porphyry copper centre (10.54 Ma Gigola, 2004) located in its hanging wall (Fig. 5 ).

6.3. Inversion of the Arroyo Malo half-graben and generation of the Sosneado thrust (9 8 Ma)

Timing of displacement along the thin-skinned thrusts has previously been studied by Baldauf (1997) . He pointed out that several stocks were emplaced along the trace of the Sosnedo fault after

the main pulse of compressive deformation. He dated three of these stocks (Fig. 2 ), Cerro La Brea (5.97 ± 0.08 Ma), Cerro Media Luna (6.52 ±

0.04 Ma) and Cerro Ventana (7.25 ± 0.32 Ma), indicating that the

Sosneado thrust had moved before 7.25 Ma (Fig. 12). Although these

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L. Giambiagi et al. / Tectonophysics xxx (2008) xxx-xxx 13 Fig. 12. Chart showing the chronology

Fig. 12. Chart showing the chronology of thick-skinned and thin-skinned thrusting in the Malargüe FTB as determined by radiometric data of pre-, syn- and post-tectonic volcanic and subvolcanic rocks (D2, D3, D6, D8, D9, D10, D12, D13, D14), relationships of synorogenic units, angular unconformities, and crosscutting structural relationships. The terms pre-, syn- and post-tectonic are related to relationship between extrusion and movement along the closest fault or fold. Times of displacement along individual faults are represented by the shaded zone. 1 From Gigola (2004); 2 From Baldauf (1997) . Three major pulses of deformation are highlighted. See Fig. 2 for location of radiometric data.

stocks are mainly post-tectonic, there is evidence for reactivation of the Sosneado thrust after their emplacement. In the Cerro La Brea area, Baldauf (1997) identied brecciated zones parallel to the fault, in the margin of the stock, and suggested that they are fault zones generated during the reactivation of the thrust. To the south, on the eastern slope of the Cuchilla de la Tristeza range, the thrust plane is exposed along a petroleum platform. In this region, the Sosneado thrust displaces the Paleogene Upper Malargüe Group over Pleisto- cene fanglomerates (Fig. 7 ). Baldauf (1997) suggested that the Laguna Amarga stock (10.56 ± 0.04) was not affected by the Sosneado thrust.

Our alternative explanation is that the thrust was split by the rigid, pre-existent stock into branches along its western and eastern margins. The eastern branch is inferred to have propagated northward to generate the brecciated zone in the Cerro La Brea area. Moreover, seismic data indicate that the displacement along the Sosneado thrust took place after deposition of the Agua de la Piedra Formation. Major activity on the Sosneado fault followed deposition of the Loma Fiera Formation but preceded that of the Río Diamante Formation, so we conclude that it occurred between 9.5 and 7 Ma (Fig. 13D). Toward the east, cross-cutting relationships, together with emplacement ages,

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L. Giambiagi et al. / Tectonophysics xxx (2008) xxx-xxx Fig. 13. Kinematic model of the evolution

Fig. 13. Kinematic model of the evolution of the northern part of the Malargüe fold and thrust belt showing the four-phase evolution of the belt. A) Distribution of pre-existing normal faults before compression. B) Inversion of the Río Blanco half- graben by reactivation of the basement-seated decóllement . During this time, synorogenic deposits of the Agua de la Piedra Fm. were deposited in a newly developed foreland basin. C) Maximum episode of deformation, between 10.5 and 9 Ma, coincident with the peak of volcanism of the Huincan Fm. ( Baldauf, 1997 ). Several basement and thin-skinned faults are interpreted to have simultaneously moved. D) Waning of deformation with inversion of the Arroyo Malo half- graben . The La Manga fault system was still active. E) After 8 Ma only minor deformation occurred with generation of the Arroyo Blanco fault and movement along the Sosneado thrust.

indicate that deformation and uplift in the Cerro Alquitrán area must have occurred after 10.42 Ma, the emplacement age of the Cerro Alquitrán stock ( Baldauf, 1997). In the western zone, displacement on the lower part of the Alumbre fault occurred after the uplift and generation of the El Freno anticline, because the related short-cut thrust decapitates the anticline. The western structures are not rotated by the El Freno anticline and folding of earlier décollements has not been recognized. Therefore, the Alumbre fault inversion could have been responsible for the nal uplift of the Cerro Blanco porphyry copper centre, after 9 Ma. This indicates that the internal deformation of the Atuel depocentre occurred after the inversion of the La Manga normal fault.

6.4. Internal deformation of the Río Blanco half-graben and reactivation of the Sosneado thrust (81 Ma)

The main phase of deformation in the Malargüe FTB occurred before 8 Ma, and after that time only minor fault movements have been identied. We infer that the Arroyo Blanco fault was generated after the main deformation on the La Manga fault system had ended. Structural relationships indicate that this fault has moved after the generation of the La Manga by-pass fault, i.e., between 9 and 8 Ma. There is no evidence of subsequent deformation in the western zone, whereas in the eastern zone reactivation of the Sosneado and Mesón thrusts took place after the deposition of Lower Pleistocene fanglomerates (Fig. 13E).

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7. Discussion: temporal relationship between thick- and thin- skinned structures

Many fold-and-thrust belts are combinations of both thin- and thick-skinned thrusting as a result of reactivation of preexisting anisotropies and weakness zones in the crust. In orogenic fronts with in uence of previous rift structures, the temporal relationship between thick- and thin-skinned deformation is currently a topic of controversy between two kinematic models (Fig. 14 zone C). In the most commonly proposed model, cover detachment on low-friction horizons in the sedimentary cover occurs before, and basement inversion occurs afterward, as a result of hinterland-to-foreland sequence of inversion of preexisting normal faults (Fig. 14A). In the other model, basin inversion occurs early in the history of the fold- and-thrust belt, in the thin and thick-skinned interaction zone, as a result of foreland-to-hinterland sequence of inversion (Fig. 14B). The main factors favouring one model or the other are the orientation and dip of preexisting faults with respect to the superimposed compres- sional stress eld (Sibson, 1985), the uid overpressure (Turner and Williams, 2004), and the strength of the frictional basal detachment (Buiter and P ffer, 2003 ). The rst model is also favoured by the occurrence of low-friction horizons in the cover, such as the presence of thick evaporate layers. In the Andes of central Argentina and Chile, the rst model was postulated for the Agrio FTB (Zapata et al., 2002; Zamora Valcarce et al., 2006), located southward of the Malargüe FTB, where hinter- land-to-foreland sequence of inversion of previous normal faults is inferred to have generated a rst phase of thin-skinned deformation followed by a thick-skinned phase in the thrust front. The second model was postulated for the southern part of the Aconcagua FTB (Giambiagi et al., 2003a,b) where the preexisting Jurassic normal faults were completely inverted during the rst phase of Andean compression. In the Malargüe FTB previous studies have postulated a classic hinterland-to-foreland sequence of inversion of extensional

faults, with the generation of an early phase of thin-skinned defor- mation in the thrust front, followed by basement inversion tectonics (e.g., Manceda and Figueroa, 1995; Rojas et al., 1999; Giampaoli et al., 2002; Silvestro and Kraemer, 2005; Kim et al., 2005; Broens and Pereira, 2005 ). For the inversion of the Atuel depocentre, located in the northern part of the Malargüe FTB, we have demonstrated that inversion of previous normal faults occurred from the master fault, in this case located in the foreland, to the hinterland. The reactivation of the master fault and the coeval activation of the inferred deep-seated detachment were synchronous with the activation of shallow detachments and low-angle thrusting in the thin-skinned area. This indicates that the most plausible kinematic model for the northern part of the Malargüe FTB incorporates inversion during an early episode of compression. Our chronology of deformation in this sector of the belt indicates that the main phase of deformation occurred during a brief episode of important shortening, mainly between 10.5 and 8 Ma, when displacement occurred simultaneously on several major faults detached from different decóllement levels.

8. Conclusions

The Malargüe FTB study yields insight into fold-and-thrust belt evolution. It illustrates the progressive evolution of the thrust front and the synchronous movement on a number of thrust sheets. The question whether shortening in the basement occurred rst and was transmitted to the cover, or the cover detached rst and basement thrusting occurred afterwards, has been elucidated through pre-, syn-, and post-tectonic relations among volcanics and subvolcanic rocks, structural relationships and foreland basin deposits. Comparison of the timing of deformation in the thick- and thin-skinned deforma- tional areas strongly supports the hypothesis that the reactivation of normal faults was coeval with the activation of shallow detachments and low-angle thrusting at the thrust front of the Malargüe FTB. Low-

thrusting at the thrust front of the Malargüe FTB. Low- Fig. 14. Two kinematic models for

Fig. 14. Two kinematic models for the temporal relationship in the interaction zone (dashed box C) between thick- and thin-skinned deformations in fold and thrust belts in uenced by the presence of preexisting normal faults. A) Cover detachment on low-friction horizons occurs before, and basement inversion occurs afterward, as a result of hinterland to foreland inversion of preexisting normal faults. B) Basin inversion occurs early in the history of the fold and thrust belt, in the thin and thick-skinned interaction zone, as a result of foreland-to-hinterland sequence of inversion.

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angle thrusts interacted with high-angle faults related to inversion of basement normal faults inherited from the extensional history of the foreland, indicating a mechanics of deformation characterized by superimposed shallow and deep detachment tectonics. Along the thrust belt, detachments occur at several stratigraphic horizons: a deep basement detachment related to the basement-involved thrust- ing, and shallow detachments located within the Jurassic and Cretaceous sequences. We propose that these detachments were active during the complex deformation of the thrust belt, between 15 and 8 Ma with a peak of deformation between 10.5 and 8 Ma.

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by grants from the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Cientíca y Tecnológica (PICT 07-10942) and CONICET (PIP 5843). We wish to thank Julieta Suriano, José Mescua, Maisa Tunik, Carla Terrizzano and Marilin Peñalva for their help in the eld. Special thanks are due to Silvia Lanés for discussions and comments. The Ar/Ar analyses were carried out by L. Giambiagi in the Geochronology Laboratory at Queen's University, with the assistance of J.K.W. Lee and D.J. Archibald, and funded by N.S.E.R.C. grants to A.H. Clark. Thierry Nalpas and Tomás Zapata are sincerely thanked for their critical and helpful reviews.

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