Emplacement of Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous radiolarites of the Nicoya Complex (Costa Rica)



We present a new model to explain the origin, emplacement and stratigraphy of the Nicoya Complex in the NW part of the Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica) based on twenty-five years of field work, accompanied with the evolution of geochemical, vulcanological, petrological, sedimentological and paleontological paradigms. The igneous-sedimentary relation, together with radiolarian biochronology of the NW-Nicoya Peninsula is re-examined. We interpret the Nicoya Complex as a cross-section of a fragment of the Late Cretaceous Caribbean Plateau, in which the deepest levels are exposed in the NW-Nicoya Peninsula. Over 50% of the igneous rocks are intrusive (gabbros and in less proportion plagiogranites) which have a single mantle source; the remainder are basalts with a similar geochemical signature. Ar39/Ar40 radioisotopic whole rock and plagioclase ages range throughout the area from 84 to 83 Ma (Santonian) for the intrusives, and from 139 to 88 Ma (Berriasian-Turonian) for the basalts. In contrast, Mn-radiolarites that crop out in the area are older in age, Bajocian (Middle Jurassic) to Albian (middle Cretaceous). These Mn-radiolaritic blocks are set in a “matrix” of multiple gabbros and diabases intrusions. Chilled margins of magmatites, and hydrothermal baking and leaching of the radiolarites confirm the Ar39/Ar40 dating of igneous rocks being consistently younger than most of the radiolarian cherts. No Jurassic magmatic basement has been identified on the Nicoya Peninsula. We interpret the Jurassic-Cretaceous chert sediment pile to have been disrupted and detached from its original basement by multiple magmatic events that occurred during the formation of the Caribbean Plateau. Coniacian-Santonian (Late Cretaceous), Fe-rich radiolarites are largely synchronous and associated with late phases of the Plateau.


Nicoya Complex; Jurassic-Cretaceous; Radiolarites; Cherts; Caribbean Plateau; Basalts; Gabbros; Pacific margin; Costa Rica.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1344/105.000000366


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            Facultat de Ciències de la Terra                       Geociències Barcelona                           Institut de Diagnosi Ambiental                    Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona           
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Geologica Acta (ISSN-1695-6133)
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