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Diatom Biostratigraphy of Chert Intervals in Santa Maria and Other Neogene Basins, California

Lisa D. White

Chert is a common component of the Monterey Formation in many outer Neogene basins. Successful recovery of diatoms from dolomite beds and concretions, which are sufficiently abundant in chert-bearing sections, makes diatom biostratigraphic analyses possible in several poorly chronicled Neogene basins. At Ano Nuevo in the Outer Santa Cruz basin, where the section consists mainly of porcelanite and chert, diatom biostratigraphy yields an age duration from 14.7-13.4 Ma. Precise age control allows analysis of cyclical aspects of chert and dolomite to be carried out on the section. Frequency estimates of silica-carbonate cycles at Ano Nuevo suggest that the cycles may be related to early middle Miocene paleo-oceanographic events.

In the Santa Maria basin, where black quartz cherts are widespread, diatom biostratigraphy has been successfully applied on the Mussel Rock, Lions Head, and Shell Beach sections. Preliminary data suggest black chert intervals are strongly age controlled and are possibly related to Miocene cooling events that affected the Santa Maria basin. Ongoing studies of the diatom biostratigraphy of dolomites promise improved age control in the Santa Maria basin. This will not only aid in paleo-oceanographic interpretations, but will also improve constraints on tectonic and depositional aspects of the basin.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91035©1988 AAPG-SEPM-SEG Pacific Sections and SPWLA Annual Convention, Santa Barbara, California, 17-19 April 1988.