Evidence for middle Cretaceous accretion at Santa Elena Peninsula (Santa Rosa Accretionary Complex), Costa Rica



An oceanic assemblage of alkaline basalts, radiolarites and polymictic breccias forms the tectonic substratum of the Santa Elena Nappe, which is constituted by extensive outcrops of ultramafic and mafic rocks of the Santa Elena Peninsula (NW Costa Rica). The undulating basal contact of this nappe defines several half-windows along the south shores of the Santa Elena Peninsula. Lithologically it is constituted by vesicular pillowed and massive alkaline basaltic flows, alkaline sills, ribbon-bedded and knobby radiolarites, muddy tuffaceous and detrital turbidites, debris flows and polymictic breccias and megabreccias. Sediments and basalt flows show predominant subvertical dips and occur in packages separated by roughly bed-parallel thrust planes. Individual packages reveal a coherent internal stratigraphy that records younging to the east in all packages and shows rapid coarsening upwards of the detrital facies. Alkaline basalt flows, pillow breccias and sills within radiolarite successions are genetically related to a mid-Cretaceous submarine seamount. Detrital sedimentary facies range form distal turbidites to proximal debris flows and culminate in megabreccias related to collapse and mass wasting in an accretionary prism. According to radiolarian dating, bedded radiolarites and soft-sediment-deformed clasts in the megabreccias formed in a short, late Aptian to Cenomanian time interval. Middle Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous radiolarian ages are found in clasts and blocks reworked from an older oceanic basement. We conclude that the oceanic assemblage beneath the Santa Elena Nappe does not represent a continuous stratigraphic succession. It is a pile of individual thrust sheets constituting an accretionary sequence, where intrusion and extrusion of alkaline basalts, sedimentation of radiolarites, turbidites and trench fill chaotic sediments occurred during the Aptian-Cenomanian. These thrust sheets formed shortly before the off-scraping and accretion of the complex. Here we define the Santa Rosa Accretionary Complex and propose a new hypothesis not considered in former interpretations. This hypothesis would be the basis for further research.


Santa Elena Peninsula; Accretion; Costa Rica; Radiolarites; Megabreccias; Middle Cretaceous; Subduction.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1344/105.000000364


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