Radiometric dating and stratigraphic reassessment of the Elliot and Clarens formations; near Maphutseng and Moyeni, Kingdom of Lesotho, southern Africa
Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Elliot and Clarens formations (Stormberg Group) of the Karoo Supergroup famously preserve not only a dynamic suite of depositional environments spanning the Late Triassic to Early Jurassic, but also boast a diverse assemblage of trace and body fossils. Due to the nature of these assemblages spanning the globally correlative Triassic-Jurassic Boundary (TJB) and end-Triassic Extinction Event (ETE), the accuracy of temporal placement and correlation via the stratigraphic framework is paramount. Yet, a distinct lack of robust temporal framework and inconsistencies between the bio-, magneto- and lithostratigraphic records persist. This project sought to provide localized context for three key fossil-bearing localities (southwestern Lesotho), which could thereafter be applied both at a regional and global scale. In-depth facies, palaeocurrent and architectural element analyses illustrated an overall increase in palaeoclimatic aridity, as evidenced by the change in depositional system from the meandering fluvial dominated lower Elliot Formation to the aeolian Clarens Formation. Detrital zircon geochronology ascertained a temporal framework ranging from the Norian to Pliensbachian (216.7-190.5 Ma) Elliot Formation to the Sinemurian to Pliensbachian (190.5-186.7 Ma) Clarens Formation. These temporal constraints also support the presence of a regional paraconformity at the lower and upper Elliot contact. The geochronology additionally indicated a shared source provenance of recycled grains from the Cape Supergroup and older Karoo strata, interspersed with direct source inputs from proximal magmatic/metamorphic provinces. Ultimately, the greater temporal and palaeoecological resolution provided by this study promotes the better understanding of the early Mesozoic history of southern Gondwana and lays the foundations for future geochronological investigations.
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