A succession of approximately 35 early Middle Ordovician K-bentonite beds are exposed in the Precordillera region near the town of Jachal, in San Juan Province (at Cerro Viejo and La Chilca sections). They occur in argillaceous limestone in the upper part of the San Juan Limestone and in the interbedded shales and mudstones at the base of the overlying Los Azules Formation. Total thickness of the K-bentonite-bearing interval is 23 m and individual beds range from 1 to 65 cm thick. An essentially Arenig-Llanvirn age for the K-bentonite succession is indicated by the presence of graptolites diagnostic of the Paraglossograptus tentaculatus Zone and conodonts indicating the Eoplacognathus suecicus Zone. The bentonites consist mainly of Rl ordered illite/smectite, characteristic of most of the lower Paleozoic K-bentonites, plus volcanogenic crystals. Similar to other K-bentonites, these probably represent the distal, glass-rich portion of fall-out ash beds derived from collision zone explosive volcanism. The geochemical data and preliminary plots on the magmatic discrimination diagram indicate the parental magma was of rhyolite to trachyandesite composition. Tectonic discrimination diagrams show the setting of Cerro Viejo ash layers as falling on the boundary between volcanic arc and within plate rocks, typical of collision margin felsic volcanic rocks. U-Pb isotope dating for two zircon fractions from one sample show a lower concordia intercept of 461, +7-10 Ma coincident with the biostratigraphic age. Thus, they have important implications for the origin and early history of the allochtonous Precordillera terrane and the Pacific margin of South America. Furthermore, they are potentially important in interpretations of the paleogeographic relations of Laurentia and Gondwana during Ordovician time. ?? 1997 Asociacio??n Geolo??gica Argentina.
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Ordovidan K-bentonites in the Precordillera of San Juan and its tectomasmatic significance [Bentonitas pota??sicas ordovicicas en la Precordillera de San Juan y su signification tectomagma??tica]