A Plate Tectonic-Paleoceanographic Hypothesis for Cretaceous Source Rocks and Cherts of Northern South America
Tomas Villamil and Claudia Arango
New paleocontinental reconstructions show a northern migration of the South American Plate with respect to the paleoequator from the Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous. This movement caused the northern margin of South America to migrate from a position south to a position north of the paleoequator. Ekman transport generated net surface water movement towards the south during times when northern South America was south of the paleoequator. This situation favored downwelling and prevented Jurassic and earliest Cretaceous marine source rocks from being deposited. When northern South America was north of the paleoequator Ekman transport forced net water movement to the north favoring upwelling, paleoproductivity, and the deposition of one of the best marine source rocks known ( he La Luna, Villeta, and equivalents). This plate tectonic paleoceanographic hypothesis explains the origin of hydrocarbons in northern South America.
The stratigraphic record reflects this increase in paleoproductivity through time. This can be observed in facies (non-calcareous shales to calcareous shales to siliceous shales and finally to bedded cherts) and in changing planktic communities which were initially dominated by healthy calcareous foraminifer assemblages, followed by stressed foraminifer populations and finally by radiolarians. Total organic carbon and source rock quality were affected by this long term increase in paleoproductivity but also, and more markedly, by a punctuated sequence stratigraphic record dominated by low- frequency changes in relative sea level. The magnitude of transgressive episodes caused by rise in sea level determined the extent of source rock intervals and indirectly the content of organic carbon.
AAPG Search and Discover Article #91019©1996 AAPG Convention and Exhibition 19-22 May 1996, San Diego, California