The origin and evolution of the central Andes, a noncollisional orogenic system, have been hypothesized to evolve as a result of several dynamic processes, including formation of an eastward-propagating orogenic wedge, segmentation into rhomb-shaped basins as a result of N-S gradients in crustal shortening, reactivation of inherited deep structures, and lithospheric foundering. How these proposed processes dominate the orogen spatially and temporally is uncertain; however, constraining the timing of upper-crustal deformation is critical for investigating these models. We document the formation and deformation of the Pasto Ventura basin (NW Argentina) in the southern Puna Plateau. Through field mapping, deformation analysis, secondary ion mass spectrometry U-Pb dating of zircon from interbedded volcanic ashes, and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of volcanics, we show that major basin formation started ca. 11.7–10.5 Ma and continued until at least ca. 7.8 Ma. The basin underwent syndepositional faulting and folding from ca. 10 to 8 Ma. Contractional deformation in the Pasto Ventura basin ended between ca. 7.3 and 4 Ma, based on the onset of regional horizontal extension. Data from the Pasto Ventura region allow us to bridge existing data and complete a regional compilation of upper-crustal deformation for the Puna Plateau. Our analysis shows that late Miocene formation and deformation of the Pasto Ventura basin represent an important out-of-sequence contractional event in the southern Puna Plateau. While a number of geodynamic processes likely shape the evolution of the southern Puna, multidisciplinary data sets, including deformation in the Pasto Ventura basin studied here, highlight the role of the formation and detachment of a late Miocene lithospheric drip in causing the upper-crustal deformation on the southern Puna Plateau since the mid–late Miocene.
- Received 19 May 2014.
- Revision received 23 January 2015.
- Accepted 23 February 2015.
- © 2015 Geological Society of America