Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the coastal Monte Léon and Santa Cruz formations (Early Miocene) at Rincón del Buque, Southern Patagonia: A revisited locality


© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.Sedimentological, ichnological and paleontological analyses of the Early Miocene uppermost Monte León Formation and the lower part of the Santa Cruz Formation were carried out in Rincón del Buque (RDB), a fossiliferous locality north of Río Coyle in Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina. This locality is of special importance because it contains the basal contact between the Monte Léon (MLF) and the Santa Cruz (SCF) formations and because it preserves a rich fossil assemblage of marine invertebrates and marine trace fossils, and terrestrial vertebrates and plants, which has not been extensively studied. A ~90m-thick section of the MLF and the SCF that crops out at RDB was selected for this study. Eleven facies associations (FA) are described, which are, from base to top: subtidal-intertidal deposits with Crassotrea orbignyi and bioturbation of the Skolithos-Cruziana ichnofacies (FA1); tidal creek deposits with terrestrial fossil mammals and Ophiomorpha isp. burrows (FA2); tidal flat deposits with Glossifungites ichnofacies (FA3); deposits of tidal channels (FA4) and tidal sand flats (FA5) both with and impoverish Skolithos ichnofacies associated; marsh deposits (FA6); tidal point bar deposits recording a depauperate mixture of both the Skolithos and Cruziana ichnofacies (FA7); fluvial channel deposits (FA8); fluvial point bar deposits (FA9); floodplain deposits (FA10); and pyroclastic and volcaniclastic deposits of the floodplain where terrestrial fossil mammal remains occur (FA11).The transition of the MLF-SCF at RDB reflects a changing depositional environment from the outer part of an estuary (FA1) through the central (FA2-6) to inner part of a tide-dominated estuary (FA7). Finally a fluvial system occurs with single channels of relatively low energy and low sinuosity enclosed by a broad, low-energy floodplain dominated by partially edaphized ash-fall, sheet-flood, and overbank deposits (FA8-11). Pyroclastic and volcaniclastic materials throughout the succession must have been deposited as ash-fall distal facies in a fluvial setting and also were carried by fluvial streams and redeposited in both estuarine and fluvial settings. These materials preserve most of the analyzed terrestrial fossil mammals that characterize the Santacrucian age of the RDB's succession. Episodic sedimentation under volcanic influence, high sedimentation rates and a relatively warm and seasonal climate are inferred for the MLF and SCF section.Lateral continuity of the marker horizons at RDB serve for correlation with other coastal localities such as the lower part of the coastal SCF south of Río Coyle (~17.6-17.4Ma) belonging to the Estancia La Costa Member of the SCF.






Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Raigemborn, MS, SD Matheos, V Krapovickas, SF Vizcaíno, MS Bargo, RF Kay, JC Fernicola, L Zapata, et al. (2015). Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the coastal Monte Léon and Santa Cruz formations (Early Miocene) at Rincón del Buque, Southern Patagonia: A revisited locality. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 60. pp. 31–55. 10.1016/j.jsames.2015.03.001 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Richard Frederick Kay

Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology

I have two areas of research:1) the evolution of primates in South America; and 2) the use of primate anatomy to reconstruct the phylogenetic history and adapations of living and extinct primates, especially Anthropoidea.

1) Evolution of primates and mammalian faunal evolution, especially in South America. For the past 30 years, I have been engaged in research in Argentina, Bolivia The Dominican Republic, Peru, and Colombia with three objectives:a) to reconstruct the evolutionary history and adaptive patterns of South America primates and other mammals; b) to establish a more precise geologic chronology for the mammalian faunas between the late Eocene and middle Miocene (between about 36 and about 15 million years ago); and c) to use anatomy and niche structure of modern mammals as a means to reconstruct the evolution of mammalian niche structure in the Neotropics.

2) Primate Anatomy. I am working to reconstruct the phylogeny of primates based (principally) on anatomical evidence; and to infer the adaptations of extinct primates based mainly on cranial and dental evidence.

Field activities
Current fieldwork is focused on the study of terrestrial biotic change in Patagonia through the 'mid-Miocene Climate Optimum' when global climate was moderate and the subtropical zone, with primates and other typically tropical vertebrates, extended their ranges up to 55 degrees of South latitude.

In this collaborative research undertaking with colleagues at University of Washington and Boise State University, the geochronology of the Santa Cruz Formation at in extreme southern Argentina is being refined using radiometric dating. Stratigraphically-controlled collections have been made of vertebrates and plant macro- and microfossils. Climate change and its impact on the biota is assessed 1) using biogeochemical analysis of stable isotopes in fossil mammalian tooth enamel; 2) by documenting changes in mammalian community structure (richness, origination and extinction rates, and ecological morphology); and 3) by documenting changes in vegetation and floral composition through the study of phytoliths. These three independent lines of evidence in a refined geochronologic framework will then be compared with similar evidence from continental sequences in the Northern Hemisphere and oceanic climatic records to improve our understanding of the timing and character of climatic change in continental high latitudes during this temporal interval.

A second field project project in its early stages is the study of the fossil vertebrates of the Amazon Basin. The latter is a collaborative effort of biologists and geologists across schools at Duke (Nicholas School) and among six North American universities. My role is to direct the vertebrate paleontology component of this project in Brazil and Amazonian Peru. The hope is to recover primates from the Oligocene through Early Miocene. New material will shed light on the phylogenetic status of African Paleogene anthropoids, one of which may be the platyrrhine sister-taxon. Also, new remains of fossil primates will help to refine hypotheses about the origins of the modern families and subfamilies of platyrrhines, all of which trace back to an Early Miocene (17-21 Ma) common ancestor. Finally, new fossil primates may further constrain the time of entry of platyrrhines into South America.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.