Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A day in the field: Cretaceous

Cretaceous sedimentary rocks are found in Puerto Rico, especially in the southwest part of the island where several well-exposed limestone units are exposed. Our destination this time was a new outcrop of the Parguera Limestone. Located in the Southwest Igneous Province (Jolly et al., 1998; Schellekens, 1998), this formation, which ranges from Santonian to Campanian, has been divided into three units, the lower Bahia Fosforecente Member, the middle Punta Papayo Member and the upper Isla Magueyes Member (Almy, 1965). Like a lot of the Cretaceous limestone units in the Caribbean region, the age has been determined with the aid of the rudist bivalve assemblages, which have been divided into several biozones (Rojas et al., 1995).

A couple of rudist bivalves (red outline). During life the position of these was with the narrowest part semi-buried in the substratum (elevators). As we can see these are sideways.

There was some debate as to whether the outcrop we went to was part of the Bahia Fosforecente or Punta Papayo, the former which has been dated as Santonian whereas the latter as Campanian in age. Lithologically, this locality is most similar to the Bahia Fosforecente member. As we searched for fossils, we found several rudists (see picture above). These seem to have been transported, as these are elevators, but were found on their side. Although these were mostly complete, I must say I haven’t had the time to look in detail at their morphology, hence they remain nameless, for now.

One of the unknown rudist we collected (left); fragment of Macgillavryia nicholasi, notice the cell pattern (right).

Other rudists that were more fragmentary, were actually much more helpful for pinning down the age of the rocks here. Several fragments of the large* rudist Macgillavryia nicholasi were found and we were able to make an ID based on their diagnostic cell patterns (picture above) (Rojas et al., 1995). The occurrence of M. nicholasi indicates that these deposits are Campanian in age, as they are found in the Barrettia monilifera biozone of Rojas et al. (1995), meaning that these units are probably part of the Punta Papayo member.

*Some specimens reaching a diameter up to 1 meter!

In terms of the depositional environment, the Parguera limestone represents (mostly) slope to basin environments (Almy, 1965). This outcrop is different. The lithology here indicates that this was likely a nearshore deposit in a moderate/high-energy coast; sandy flat pebble conglomerates were the giveaway.

View of the outcrop of Parguera Limestone, rocks are dipping to the south (towards the left). To the far right, HSM & DLOA search for fossils.

Leaving what I think is most exiting for last; the whole reason for our visit to this outcrop was the search for fossils of tetrapods. One of us (DLOA) had found, on a previous visit, a non-fish vertebra*! We did not found anything else, but if we can get an id on what we have so far it would be a first! So, wish us luck!

*Update (Aug/2009): it most likely is an archosaur caudal vertebra!! Hat tip to MTC for the id!

Go here for a very good rudist database.


Almy, C. C., Jr. 1965. Parguera Limestone, Upper Cretaceous, Mayagüez Group, Southwestern Puerto Rico. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Rice University, Houston, 203p.

Jolly, W. T., E. G. Lidiak, J. H. Schellekens & H. Santos. 1998. Volcanism, tectonics, and stratigraphic correlations in Puerto Rico; pp. 1-34 in E. G. Lidiak & D. A. Larue (eds.), Tectonics and Geochemistry of the Northeastern Caribbean. Geological Society of America Special Paper 322.

Rojas, R., M. A. Iturralde-Vinent and P. W. Skelton. 1995. Stratigraphy, composition and age of Cuban rudist-bearing deposits. Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Geológicas 12(2):272-291.

Schellekens, J. H. 1998. Geochemical evolution and tectonic history of Puerto Rico; pp. 35-66, in E. G. Lidiak & D. A. Larue (eds.), Tectonics and Geochemistry of the Northeastern Caribbean. Geological Society of America Special Paper 322.


Anonymous said...

Gambaté! Encontrarás algo mejor ya verás!

Unknown said...

encontre esto de casualidad, buscando info para la tesis jejeje
Gracias Jorge!!

Mega el Dinofriki said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a second. A ver si entendí y corríjame si me equivoco, pero ¿A caso mencionó la posibilidad de que hubo vida en PR durante el período Cretácico? Digo, reconozco que la muestra recuperada podría tratarse de una especie de cocodrilo,caimán o algo parecido, pero resulta que éstos no eran la especie dominante en el Mesozoico (Aunque eso también depende de la zona). Es decir, ¿es posible que se pueda encontrar restos de reptiles marinos o tal vez, hasta dinosaurios de tamaño pequeño en sedimentos de PR?

J. Velez-Juarbe said...

Partes de Puerto Rico ya eran isla para el Cretácico inferior. La explicación más parsimoniosa es que la vértebra es de algún cocodrilomorfo. Y si, es posible que se encuentren restos de reptiles marinos en el Mesozoico de PR; hasta ahora solo he visto tortugas! Dinosaurios, pues ya eso sería más difícil.

Mega el Dinofriki said...

Sí. Eso es comprensible y lo entiendo bien, pero la posibilidad de encontrar fósiles de reptiles marinos extintos aquí me parece más que fascinante. Daría un giro considerable en el conocimiento geológico de la isla. Por cierto, muy buena entrada.