El Alisal: a new locality with trace fossils of the Puncoviscana Formation (late Precambrian-early Cambrian) in Salta Province. Argentina


  • Guillermo F. Aceñolaza INSUGEO – Conicet, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales e IM
  • M.F. Tortello INSUGEO – Conicet, Museo de La Plata




Trace fossils, Precambrian-Cambrian Puncoviscana Formation, Northwestern Argentina


The Puncoviscana, Suncho and Las Aguaditas/Negro Peinado formations represent a thick siliciclastic folded succession that crops out on a strip about 800 km long and 150 km wide in northwestern Argentina (Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca and La Rioja provinces). These sequences are lithologically characterized by very lowgrade metamorphic sediments grading from slates to schists; turbidites, pelagic clays, limestones and volcanic rocks. On the basis of paleoichnological data, these units have been assigned to the late Precambrian-early Cambrian. A new locality bearing well preserved trace fossils from the Puncoviscana Formation is described herein. The outcrop is located about 45 km west of Salta city (Salta Province), displaying an alternation of colored differentiated grayish-bluish slates and fine sandstones. Ichnofossils include Cochlichnus anguineus HITCHCOCK, Helminthoidichnites tenuis FITCH, Helminthoida isp., Monomorphichnus lineatus CRIMES, LEGG and MARCOS ARBOLEYA, Planolites isp. and Torrowangea? isp., as well as some limb marks and a few slightly bended smooth trails (indet.). An Early Cambrian age for the succession at El Alisal as well as some environmental considerations are allowed by the ichnological association. In addition, the ichnogenus Planolites is mentioned for the first time from the “red shales and conglomerate type” facies at the neighbor locality of Chorrillos.


Aceñolaza, F.G., 1978. El Paleozoico inferior de Argentina según sus trazas fósiles. Ameghiniana, 15(1-2), 15-64.

Aceñolaza, F.G., Alonso, R., 2001. Icnoasociaciones de la transición Precámbrico-Cámbrico en el noroeste de Argentina. Cuadernos de Geología Ibérica (in press). Madrid.

Aceñolaza, F.G., Durand, F.R., 1973. Trazas fósiles del basamento cristalino del noroeste argentino. Boletín de la Asociación Geológica de Córdoba, 2, 45-55.

Aceñolaza, F.G., Durand, F.R., 1982. El icnogénero Oldhamia (traza fósil) en Argentina, carácteres morfológicos e importancia estratigráfica en formaciones del Cámbrico Inferior. V Congreso Geológico Latinoamericano, 1, 705-720.

Aceñolaza, F.G., Durand, F.R., 1984. The trace fossil Oldhamia: Its interpretation and occurrence in the Lower Cambrian of

Argentina. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Monatshefte, 12, 728-740.

Aceñolaza, F.G., Durand, F.R., 1986. Upper Precambrian – Lower Cambrian biota from the northwest of Argentina. Geological Magazine, 123, 367-375.

Aceñolaza, F.G., Durand, F.R., 1987. Paleontología del límite Precámbrico-Cámbrico de Argentina. X Congreso Geológico

Argentino, 1, 315-320.

Aceñolaza, F.G., Miller, H., Toselli, A.J., 1988. The Puncoviscana Formation (Late Precambrian – Early Cambrian). Sedimentology, tectonometamorphic history and age of the oldest rocks of NW Argentina. In: Bahlburg, H., Breitkreuz, Ch.,

Giese, P. (eds.). The Southern Central Andes. Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences, 17, 25-37.

Aceñolaza, F.G., Aceñolaza, G.F., Esteban, S., 1999. Bioestratigrafía de la Formación Puncoviscana y unidades equivalentes en el NOA. In: González Bonorino, G., Omarini, R., Viramonte, J. (eds.). Geología del Noroeste Argentino, Relatorio XIV Congreso Geológico Argentino, 1, 91-114.

Alpert, S.P., 1975. Planolites and Skolithos from the Upper Precambrian – Lower Cambrian White-Inyo Mountains, California. Journal of Paleontology, 49, 508-521.

Baldwin, C.T., 1977. The stratigraphy and facies associations of trace fossils in some cambrian and Ordovician rocks of north western Spain. In:. Crimes, T.P., Harper, J.C. (eds). Trace fossils 2. Geological Journal, Special Issue, 9, 9-40.

Benton, M.J., Trewin, N.H., 1978. Discussion and comments on Nicholson´s 1872 manuscript “Contributions to the study of

errant annelides of the older Paleozoic rocks” University of Aberdeen, Department of Geology and Mineralogy. Publication 1, 1-16.

Buatois, L.A., Jalfin, G., Aceñolaza, F.G., 1997. Permian nonmarine invertebrate trace fossils from southern Patagonia, Argentina: Ichnologic signatures of substrate consolidation and colonization sequences. Journal of Paleontology, 71(2), 324-336.

Buatois, L.A., Mángano, M.G., Aceñolaza, F.G., Esteban, S.B., 2000. The Puncoviscana ichnofauna of northwest Argentina: a glimpse into the ecology of the Precambrian-Cambrian transition. In: Aceñolaza, G.F., Peralta, S. (eds.). Cambrian from the Southern Edge. Instituto Superior de Correlación Geológica, Miscelánea, 6, 82-84.

Crimes, T.P., 1970. Trilobite tracks and other trace fossils from the Upper Cambrian of North Wales. Geological Journal, 7,


Crimes, T.P., 1974. Colonization of the early ocean floor. Nature, 248 (5446), 328-330.

Crimes, T.P., 1992. Changes in the trace fossil biota across the Proterozoic-Phanerozoic boundary. Journal of the Geological

Society, London,149, 637-646.

Crimes, T.P., Anderson, M.M., 1985. Trace fossils from Late Precambrian-Early Cambrian of southeastern Newfoundland (Canada): Temporal and environmental implications. Journal of Paleontology, 59, 310-343.

Durand, F.R., 1992. Avances y problemas en la definición del límite Precámbrico-Cámbrico en el Noroeste Argentino. Instituto Superior de Correlación Geológica, Serie Correlación Geológica, 9, 127-138.

Durand, F.R., 1993. Las icnofacies del basamento metasedimentario en el Noroeste Argentino: Significado cronológico y aspectos paleogeográficos. XII Congreso Geológico Argentino, 2, 260-267.

Durand, F.R., 1994. Síntesis sobre el conocimiento icnológico del basamento Precámbrico-Cámbrico del noroeste argentino. Acta Geológica Leopoldensia, 17, 733-746.

Durand, F.R., 1996. La transición Precámbrico-Cámbrico en el sur de Sudamérica. In: Baldis, B.A., Aceñolaza, F.G. (eds.). Early Paleozoic Evolution in Northwest Gondwana. Instituto Superior de Correlación Geológica, Serie Correlación Geológica, 12, 195-206.

Durand, F.R., Aceñolaza, F.G., 1990. Carácteres biofaunísticos, paleoecológicos y paleogeográficos de la Formación Puncoviscana (Precámbrico Superior – Cámbrico Inferior) del noroeste argentino. In: Aceñolaza, F.G., Miller, H., Toselli,

A.J. (eds.). El Ciclo Pampeano en el Noroeste Argentino. Instituto Superior de Correlación Geológica, Serie Correlación Geológica, 4, 71-112.

Durand, F.R., Lech, R.R., Tortello, M.F., 1993. Nuevas evidencias paleontológicas en el basamento Precámbrico-Cámbrico

del noroeste argentino. Acta Geológica Leopoldensia, 17, 691-701.

Fedonkin, M.A., 1988. Paleoichnology of the Precambrian-Cambrian Transition in the Russian Platform and Siberia. In: Landing, E., Narbonne, G.M., Myrow, P. (eds.). Trace Fossils, Small Shelly Fossils and the Precambrian-Cambrian Boundary. Proceedings. New York State Museum Bulletin, 463, 12.

Fitch, A., 1850. A historical, topographical and agricultural survey of the county of Washington. Pt. 2-5 New York Agricultural Society. Transactions 9, 753-994.

Fillion, D., 1989. Les critères discriminants à l`intérieur du triptyque Palaeophycus-Planolites-Macaronichnus. Essai de synthèse d`un usage critique. C.R. Academie Sciences du Paris, 309(2), 169-172.

Fillion D., Pickerill R.K., 1990. Ichnology of the Upper Cambrian? to Lower Ordovician Bell Island and Wabana Groups of eastern Newfoundland, Canada. Palaeontographica Canadiana, 7, 1-119.

Häntzschel, W., 1975. Trace fossils and problematica. In: Teichert, F.C. (ed.). Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Part W, Miscelánea (Supplement 1), 1-2.

Hitchcock, E., 1858. Ichnology of New England. A Report on the Sandstone of the Connecticut Valley, Especially its footprints. White (Boston), 220 pp.

Hofmann, H.J., Patel, I.M., 1989. Trace fossils from the type “Etchemunian Series” (Lower Cambrian Ratcliffe Brook Formation). Saint John area, New Brunswick, Canada. Geological Magazine, 126, 139-157.

Jensen, S., 1997. Trace fossils from the Lower Cambrian Mickwitzia sandstone, south-central Sweden. Fossils and Strata, 42, 1-110.

Jezek, P., 1990. Análisis sedimentológico de la Formación Puncoviscana entre Tucumán y Salta. In: Aceñolaza, F.G., Miller, H., Toselli, A.J. (eds.). El Ciclo Pampeano en el Noroeste Argentino. Instituto Superior de Correlación Geológica, Serie Correlación Geológica, 4, 9-36.

Liñán, E., Palacios, T., 1987. Asociaciones de pistas fósiles y microorganismos de pared orgánica del Proterozoico, en las

facies esquisto-grauváquicas del norte de Cáceres. Consecuencias regionales. Boletín de la Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural (Geología), 82(1-4), 211-232.

Metz, R., 1995. Sinusoidal trail formed by a recent biting midge (Family Ceratopogonidae): trace fossil implications. Journal

of Paleontology, 62, 330-348.

Miller, S.A., 1889. North American geology and palaeontology for the use of amateurs, students and scientists. Western Methodist Book Concern. Cincinnati, 664 pp.

Mirré, J.C., Aceñolaza, F.G., 1972. El Hallazgo de Oldhamia sp. (traza fósil) y su valor como evidencia de edad cámbrica para el supuesto Precámbrico del borde occidental del Aconquija. Provincia de Catamarca. Ameghiniana, 9(1), 72-78.

Narbonne, G. M., Myrow, P. Landing, E., Anderson, M.M., 1987. A candidate stratotype for the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary. Fortune Head, Burin Peninsula, southeastern Newfoundland. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 24, 1277-1293.

Nicholson, H.A., 1873. Contributions to the study of the errant annelides of the older Paleozoic rocks, Royal Society of London. Proceedings, 21, 288-310.

Nicholson, H.A., Hinde, G.J., 1871. Notes on the fossils of the Clinton, Niagara and Guelph formations of Ontario, with descriptions of new species. Canadian Journal Sci. Lit. History, 14, 137-160.

O`Connor, E., Welde, D., 1986. Recognition of Eocambrian progenic cycle in SW Brazil and SE Bolivia. Zentralblatt für Geolgie und Paläontologie, 1441-1456.

Omarini, R.H., Sureda, R.J., Götze, J.-H., Seilacher, A., Pflüger, F., 1999. Pucoviscana folded belt in northwestern Argentina:

Testimony of Late Proterozoic Rodinia fragmentation and pre-Gondwana collisional episodes. International Journal of Earth Sciences, 88, 76-97.

Pemberton S.G., Frey, R.W., 1982. Trace fossil nomenclature and the Planolites-Palaeophycus dilemma. Journal of Paleontology, 56(4), 843-881.

Seilacher, A., 1967. Bathymetry of Trace fossils. Marine Geology, 5, 413-428.

Seilacher, A., 1970.Cruziana stratigraphy of “non fossiliferous” Palaeozoic sandstones. In: Crimes, T.P., Harper, J.C. (eds.). Trace Fossils, Geological Journal, Special Issue 3, 447-476.

Seilacher, A., 1985. Trilobite palaeobiology and substrate relationship. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 76, 231-237.

Seilacher, A., 1990. Paleozoic trace fossils. In: Said, R. (ed.). The Geology of Egypt. Balkema, 649-670.

Sureda, R. J., Omarini, R. H., 1999. Evolución geológica y nomenclatura pre-Gondwánica en el Noroeste de Argentina (1800-

Ma). Acta Geologica Hispanica, 34(2-3), 197-225.

Webby, B.D., 1970. Late Precambrian trace fossils from New South Wales. Lethaia, 3, 79-109.




Most read articles by the same author(s)