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Journal of Geodynamics 49 (2010) 287295

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Journal of Geodynamics
journal homepage: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jog

The Loncopu Trough: A Cenozoic basin produced by extension in the southern Central Andes
Andrs Folguera a, , Emilio Rojas Vera a , Germn Bottesi b , Gonzalo Zamora Valcarce b , Victor A. Ramos a
a b

Laboratorio de Tectnica Andina, Universidad de Buenos Aires, CONICET, Argentina YPF, Direccin de Exploracin y Desarrollo de Negocios, Argentina

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
The Loncopu Trough is located in the hinterland Andean zone between 36 30 and 39 S. It constitutes a topographic low bounded by normal faults and lled by lavas and sediments less than 5 Ma old. Reprocessed seismic lines show wedge-like depocenters up to 1700 m deep associated with high-angle faults, correlated with the 2717 Ma Cura Malln basin deposits, and buried beneath Pliocene to Quaternary successions and Late Miocene foreland sequences. The southern Central Andes seem to have been under extension in the hinterland zone some 27 Ma ago and again at approximately 5 Ma ago. This last extensional period could have been the product of slab steepening after a shallow subduction cycle in the area, although other alternatives are discussed. Orogenic wedge topography, altered by the rst extensional stage in the area, was recovered through Late Miocene inversion, and was associated with foreland sequences. However, since the last extension (<5 Ma) the Andes have not recovered their characteristic contractional behavior that controlled past orogenic growth. 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Article history: Received 4 August 2009 Received in revised form 13 January 2010 Accepted 13 January 2010

Keywords: Cenozoic extension Synextensional sedimentation Southern Central Andes

1. Introduction The Andean retroarc zone between 35 and 40 S (Fig. 1), and particularly between 36 30 and 39 S where the Loncopu Trough is developed, constitutes an outstanding site to address non-steady mountain building since the Andean phase of deformation started some 100 Ma ago. Here we present eld and geophysical data from that specic site to exemplify extensional reactivation of the fold and thrust belt that have produced substantial topographic losses. The southern Central Andes (2840 S) can be divided in two sectors based on their evolution during the last 17 Ma. Since that time, the northern region between 28 and 33 S has experienced the Pampean at subduction associated with basement foreland uplifts. It is limited eastward by a neotectonic compressional front located some 750 km from the trench (Fig. 1) (Costa and VitaFinzi, 1996; Ramos et al., 2002). Seismic tomographies at those latitudes show fast P wave-velocities implying a cold setting above the horizontal subducted slab (Gilbert et al., 2006). Contrastingly, a southern segment between 35 and 40 S has abandoned the Payenia shallow subduction zone since 5 Ma, as evidenced by migration of the volcanic arc more than 500 km toward the foreland (Fig. 2A) (Kay et al., 2006a). Seismic tomography at approximately

Corresponding author. E-mail address: andresfolguera2@yahoo.com.ar (A. Folguera). 0264-3707/$ see front matter 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jog.2010.01.009

35.536 S (Wagner et al., 2005; Gilbert et al., 2006) and receiver function proles at 39 S (Yuan et al., 2006) (Fig. 1) show (i) large subcrustal low-velocity arrivals interpreted as mantle melts and/or volatiles and (ii) an attenuated lower crust. This scenario has been interpreted as derived from asthenosphere injection in a broadened asthenospheric wedge more than 400 km away from the trench in the retroarc area, triggering extensional deformation at the upper crust (Fig. 2B) (Folguera et al., 2007, 2008). A 2D preliminary electrical resistivity model at 36.5 S (Burd et al., 2008) shows an uprising highly conductive plume with geometry compatible with the asthenospheric anomaly modeled from gravity data (Folguera et al., 2007). The inferred extensional deformation in this segment would have expanded to the east, dening a Quaternary deformational front (Figs. 1 and 2B) where previous compressional structures would be partly collapsing diachronically since 5 Ma (Folguera et al., 2006a). This scenario has been discussed and even contradicted by other studies, the main discrepancies based only on surcial data (Lavenu and Cembrano, 1999; Back et al., 2006; Melnick et al., 2006a,b; Rosenau et al., 2006; Galland et al., 2007). This work, through interpretation of reprocessed seismic lines and eld work, proposes a crustal-scale extensional nature of one of the main less than 5 Ma depocenters in the southern Central Andes, as well as its polyphasic nature, indicating repeated instability of the orogenic wedge through time. Finally, its origin is discussed in light of current tectonic models discussed for this Andean segment during the Neogene.

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Fig. 1. Southern Central and Northern Patagonian Andes and location of the present Pampean at subduction zone and the Late Miocene Payenia shallow subduction zone to the south, proposed by Kay et al. (2006a). The neotectonic front is also indicated as well as its variable mechanics. The two dashed lines indicate transects along which abnormally heated mantle and crustal attenuation processes have been identied.

Fig. 2. (A) Late Miocene tectonic setting for the area between 33 and 41 S, with locations of easternmost arc-related rocks (after Kay et al., 2006a), synorogenic depocenters, and contractional structures developed at that time (Ramos and Folguera, 2005). (B) Extensional deformation developed after 5 Ma in the same area controlling emplacement of intraplate series and location of the Loncopu Trough and the adjacent Agrio fold and thrust belt.

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Fig. 3. The Loncopu Trough anking the Main Andes between 36 and 39 S and main extensional structures. Numbers are in mGal and correspond to the residual gravity eld in the arc-western retroarc region (contours taken from Folguera et al., 2007). The two seismic lines interpreted in the present work are indicated with dashed segments corresponding to the northern and southern axial parts of the Loncopu Trough respectively.

2. Retroarc geological setting The eastern slope of the Andes between 36 and 39 S is formed by the main Andes, the product of Late Miocene tectonic inversion of the 2717 Ma Cura Malln basin (Jordan et al., 2001; Burns, 2002; Radic et al., 2002; Melnick et al., 2006a,b) and the Agrio fold and thrust belt to the east (Fig. 3). The latter constitutes a Late Early Cretaceous to Eocene fold and thrust belt mildly reactivated at the time of basin inversion in the west (Groeber, 1929; Zamora Valcarce et al., 2008) (Fig. 2). The Late Early Cretaceous to Eocene contractional deformational stage and consequent uplift at these latitudes is determined from (i) ssion track data yielding an age between 70 and 50 Ma (Kay et al., 2006b; Zamora Valcarce et al., 2008), (ii) zircon detrital provenance data from the hinterland in synorogenic depocenters dated at <97 Ma (Ramos et al., 2008), (iii) dating of postdeformational intrusives (<105 Ma) (Zamora Valcarce et al., 2006), and (iv) a regional unconformity between Latest Cretaceous to Paleocene sequences and Early Cretaceous strata (Groeber, 1929; Llambas and Rapela, 1989; Franchini et al., 2003). The Cura Malln basin is interpreted as formed by a series of synextensional and diachronous depocenters (Burns, 2002; Radic et al., 2002; Utg et al., 2009), inverted since 1718 Ma as determined by ssion track data (Spikings et al., 2008) and eld studies (Utg et al., 2009). These have been unconformably overlain by the Mid to Late Miocene TrapaTrapa and Mitrauqun Formations, interpreted as synorogenic deposits (Melnick et al., 2006a,b). Both the Cura Malln basin inversion and late reactivation of the Agrio fold and thrust belt

in Late Miocene times have been related to a shallow subduction regime (Payenia shallow subduction zone), as evidenced by contemporaneous eastward arc expansion (Kay et al., 2006a,b). 3. Early Pliocene to Quaternary extensional deformation in the Loncopu Trough The Loncopu Trough is on the eastern ank of the highest Andes (Main Andes) between 36 30 and 39 S (Fig. 3), although its maximum topographic expression lies between 38 and 39 S. The axial part of the trough is marked by a series of low residual gravity anomalies in contradistinction to the Agrio fold and thrust belt to the east and the main Andes to the west, where higher values of residual gravity are reached (Fig. 3). Moreover, the entire area occupied by the Loncopu Trough and the Agrio fold and thrust belt is characterized by strong isostatic anomalies coincident with the area of crustal attenuation (Yuan et al., 2006), indicating that it could be subcompensated. On the basis of morphological observations, Munoz and Stern (1985) suggested that the axially depressed sector of the Loncopu Trough is bounded by two NS fault systems, controlling Early Pliocene to Quaternary monogenetic alkaline basaltic eruptions. Basal Loncopu Trough sequences that were dated in the northern part of the trough at 4 0.5 Ma, culminate in a lava plateau of 1.7 0.2 Ma sparsely covered by 1.4 0.41.2 0.1 monogenetic eruptions (Folguera et al., 2004). In the southern and middle sections of the trough, similar basal ages up to 56 Ma were

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Fig. 4. Western Loncopu Trough system at 38 S where a series of halfgrabens of less than 100 m across affect Late Pliocene to Quaternary lava ows (see location in Fig. 3).

reported for the plateau sequences (Linares and Gonzlez, 1990). At about 39 S, monogenetic centers range between 2.30 0.3 and 0.47 0.2 Ma (Linares and Gonzlez, 1990) on the axial part of the trough, while on its western boundary they have been dated from 1.6 0.2 to 0.9 0.3 Ma (Munoz and Stern, 1985, 1988). Youngest volcanic activity is concentrated at around 38 S in the axial

trough, where basaltic ows internger with postglacial lacustrine deposits (Groeber, 1928). A poorly evolved alkaline magmatism, together with low 87 Sr/86 Sr initial ratios near 0.7040, relates this Bravo et al., 1989). volcanic eld to an extensional regime (Munoz The youngest tectonic activity in the Loncopu Trough is dated by scarps affecting lava ows at the central part of the trough

Fig. 5. Neotectonic deformation in the western Agrio fold and thrust belt. This occurred previous to 105 Ma, the age of postdeformational dykes (A). This rapid and young event is not related to stacking of thrust sheets east of the fold and thrust belt, which would require another uplift mechanism. (A) DEM of the Agrio fold and thrust belt and its main features. (B) Detail of the area of neotectonic deformation. (C) Structural prole (see location in (A)).

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Fig. 6. Eastern Loncopu Trough system at 38 S, where normal faults affect the western part of the Agrio fold and thrust belt. (A) Extensional scarps affecting Quaternary volcanics. (B) Normal fault juxtaposing late Early Jurassic sandstones of the La Laja Formation on top of Early Jurassic shales of the Los Molles Formation, where Quaternary volcanics are displaced. (C) Perspective view of an Aster draped over a DEM in the western Agrio fold and thrust belt and adjacent Loncopu Trough. (D) Interpretation of (C).

interngered with postglacial lacustrine sediments (Rojas Vera et al., 2008, 2009). Maximum depocenters belonging to this Pliocene to Quaternary stage are 15001900 m thick, with an average value of 1000 m, exposed by exceptional glacial activity in the main Andes. The two Loncopu fault boundaries and their nature (Fig. 3) were determined by eld observations, where Quaternary sequences are extensionally displaced (Figs. 4 and 5), exhibiting linear topographic breaks tens to more than one hundred kilometres long, facing the axial low. The western boundary fault zone is formed at the surface by a series of halfgrabens less than 100 m across, associated with east-facing scarps affecting Quaternary lavas (Fig. 4). The eastern boundary fault zone represents a series of west- and east-facing normal fault scarps affecting Quaternary lavas and previously deformed Mesozoic strata (Figs. 5 and 6). The Mesozoic strata were folded previously at 105 Ma, the age of postdeformational dykes intruded into the compressional structure (Fig. 6) (Zamora Valcarce et al., 2006). Therefore, extensional deformation affecting Quaternary rocks is not likely related to the contractional phenomena. Even though extension is (i) registered at both trough boundaries, leaving a symmetrical trough in between, (ii) affecting

Pliocene to Quaternary rocks, and (iii) temporally unconnected with contractional phases determined at these orogenic sections, its identied short wavelength allows alternative explanations. These structures could be associated with supercial extension of deeper contractional structures active in the Andean foothills. However, our interpretation is that their length, for individual segments of the order of 20 km and for fault systems around 4060 km, corresponds to rather deeply rooted structures. 4. Late Oligocene to Early Miocene extensional deformation in the Loncopu Trough Strata of 2717 Ma age in the Cura Malln basin are unconformably overlain by Early Pliocene sequences in the main Andes between 36 and 39 S (Fig. 3) (Surez and Emparn, 1995; Jordan et al., 2001; Burns, 2002), and in the axial part of the Loncopu Trough north of 37 30 S (Fig. 3). Late Oligocene to Early Miocene strata are systematically exposed on the western side of the Andes between 38 and 39 S (Fig. 3) and on both sides of the Andes north of 38 S (Folguera et al., 2006b; Melnick et al., 2006a,b). The mechanics of subsidence has been discussed extensively in the last decade, revealing two opposing points of view. On the one hand, Cobbold et

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Fig. 7. 2D WE oriented seismic line across the axial part of the southern Loncopu Trough at 38 S, where a wedge-like depocenter thickens towards the eastern main fault boundary and is characterized internally by minor extensional structures; registered times for the deepest reectors would imply a maximum inll of the order of 1400 m, considering an interval velocity derived from stacking velocities of 2800 m/s. See location with respect to the axial Loncopu Trough in Fig. 3. Ages of units rely on correlations and are not determined directly. (A) Seismic line. (B) Interpretation of (A) superimposed on it. (C) Complete interpretation.

Fig. 8. (A) 2D WE oriented seismic line across the axial part of the northern Loncopu Trough at 37 S, where a series of wedge-like depocenters thickens to the west; registered times for the deepest reectors would imply a maximum inll of the order of 1100 m, considering an interval velocity derived from stacking velocities of 2800 m/s. See location with respect to the axial Loncopu Trough in Fig. 3. (B) Interpretation of (A). Ages of units rely on correlations and are not determined directly.

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al. (2008) suggested that those sequences constitute a typical foreland basin associated with the steady uplift of the Andes from Late Cretaceous to Neogene times. On the contrary Spalletti and Dalla Salda (1996), Surez and Emparn (1995), Jordan et al. (2001), Radic et al. (2002) and Burns (2002), among others, suggest that those depocenters were part of an intra-arc extensional basin. Most of the evidence favoring each hypothesis was based on sedimentological studies, regional basin studies, supposed progressive unconformities, and analyses of low quality 2D seismic lines. Figs. 7 and 8 show reprocessed seismic lines where wedge-shaped depocenters 11001400 m thick with variable polarity and dimensions are recognized. Particularly in Fig. 7, halfgrabens are controlled by west-dipping high-angle faults. These are characterized internally by a series of narrower wedges which truncate each other by erosional surfaces (referred as synrift 14). These wedges are associated above with anticlines suggesting that related normal faults were partly inverted (Fig. 7) before Pliocene times (the oldest nonfolded rocks in the area). Onlapping reectors on top of the inverted synrift wedges support the idea that synorogenic sedimentation took place at the time of inversion in the Loncopu Trough, presumably in late Miocene times. This series of halfgraben depocenters is located across the axial part of the southern Loncopu Trough, and seems to be associated with a west-dipping main fault boundary, where strata reach their maximum thickness. This is coincident at the surface with the eastern fault boundary zone indicated in Figs. 3 and 5. Synrift packages are correlated with the Cura Malln strata outcropping immediately to the west in the main Andes (Fig. 3), while onlapping sequences are assigned to the TrapaTrapa and Mitrauqun Formations following the same criteria.

The seismic line in Fig. 8 is interpreted as a series of halfgrabens controlled by east-dipping normal faults. These seem to be mildly inverted judging by the presence of broad anticlines developed on top of the thickest sedimentary columns. Contrastingly, in the seismic line in Fig. 7, no onlapping unit is distinguishable. This is explained by a deeper level of erosion, where Late Oligocene to Early Miocene units are exposed at the surface (Fig. 3). This contrasts with interpretations published by Jordan et al. (2001) from the same original data, where they infer a western master fault controlling the depocenter. This different interpretation is attributable to the quality of information. While Jordan et al. (2001) dealt with originally processed seismic data, we have used recently reprocessed data that reveal features hidden in previous lines. 5. Discussion and conclusions Extensional depocenters of 2717 and 50 Ma age inferred from seismic information and conrmed by eld studies, separated by foreland sequences, could be superimposed in the Loncopu Trough, having produced locally the sinking of the westernmost section of the Late Cretaceous to Eocene fold and thrust belt. Therefore, a long controversy regarding the mechanics of subsidence in the Loncopu trough could be saved: these foothills have acted alternatively as a foredeep and a retroarc basin. To the east, remnants of these Cenozoic extensional collapses constitute the Agrio fold and thrust belt (Fig. 9), emerged mainly in Late Cretaceous to Eocene times as revealed by dating based on ssion track and synorogenic sedimentation. A broad isostatic anomaly (with a maximum of 40 mGal) (Fig. 9) coincides at the surface

Fig. 9. Structural cross section along the eastern slope of the Andes at 38 S, where Cenozoic halfgrabens of Late Oligocene-Early Miocene to Early Pliocene-Quaternary age affect the western section of a mainly Late Cretaceous fold and thrust belt (modied from Zapata et al., 1999 and Zapata and Folguera, 2005). Crustal earthquakes taken from Bohm et al. (2002), and isostatic anomalies from Folguera et al. (2007).

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A. Folguera et al. / Journal of Geodynamics 49 (2010) 287295 retroarc determined from gravimetric studies (38 39 30 S): the Lonco-Lun astenospheric anomaly. Tectonophysics, doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2007.04.001. Folguera, A., Bottesi, G., Ramos, V., Zapata, T., 2008. Crustal collapse at the retroarc zone (2-0 Ma): Tromen volcanic plateau, Southern Central Andes (36 40 37 30 S). In: Sempere, T., Folguera, A., Gerbault, M. (Eds.), New Insights into Andean Evolution: An Introduction to Contributions from the 6th ISAG Symposium, Barcelona, 2005. Tectonophysics, doi:10.1016/j.tecto. 2007.12.013. Franchini, M.B., Lpez Escobar, L., Shalamuk, I.B.A., Meinert, L.D., 2003. Paleocene, calc-alkaline subvolcanic rocks from Nevazn Hill area (NW Chos Malal Fold Belt), Neuqun, Argentina, and comparison with granitoids of the NeuqunMendoza volcanic province. Journal of South American Earth Sciences 16, 399421. Galland, O., Hallot, E., Cobbold, R., Ruffet, G., Brmond dArs, J., 2007. Volcanism in a compressional Andean setting: a structural and geochronological study of Tromen volcano (Neuqun province, Argentina). Tectonics, 26, doi:10.1029/2006TC002011 (TC4010). Gilbert, H., Beck, S., Zandt, G., 2006. Lithospheric and upper mantle structure of central Chile and Argentina. Geophysical Journal Internacional 165 (1), 383, doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2006.02867.x. Groeber, P., 1928. Traslado del vulcanismo de la falda oriental de la cordillera hacia la ladera occidental. Anales de la Sociedad Argentina de Estudios Geogrcos (GAEA) 3 (1), 210218, Buenos Aires. Groeber, P., 1929. Lneas fundamentales de la geologa del Neuqun, sur de Mendozay regiones adyacentes, Pub. Direccin de Geologay Minera58, 110 pp. Jordan, T.E., Burns, W.M., Veiga, R., Pngaro, F., Copeland, P., Kelley, S., Mpodozis, C., 2001. Extension and basin formation in the southern Andes caused by increased convergence rate: a mid-Cenozoic trigger for the Andes. Tectonics 20, 308324. Kay, S.M., Mancilla, O., Copeland, P., 2006a. Evolution of the Backarc Chachahun volcanic complex at 37 S latitude over a transient Miocene shallow subduction zone under the Neuqun Basin. In: Kay, S.M., Ramos, V.A. (Eds.), Evolution of an Andean Margin: A Tectonic and Magmatic View from the Andes to the Neuqun Basin (3539 S), pp. 215246, Spec. Pap. Geol. Soc. America 407. Kay, S.M., Burns, M., Copeland, P., 2006b. Upper Cretaceous to Holocene Magmatism over the Neuqun basin: evidence for transient shallowing of the subduction zone under the Neuqun Andes (36 S to 38 S latitude). In: Kay, S.M., Ramos, V.A. (Eds.), Evolution of an Andean Margin: A Tectonic and Magmatic View from the Andes to the Neuqun Basin (3539 S), pp. 1960, Spec. Pap. Geol. Soc. America 407. Lavenu, A., Cembrano, J., 1999. Compressional and tranpressional stress pattern for Pliocene and Quaternary brittle deformation in fore arc and intra arc zones (Andes of Central and Southern Chile). Journal of Structural Geology 21, 16691691. Linares, E., Gonzlez, R., 1990. Catlogo de edades radimtricas de la Repblica Argentina 19571987. Asociacin Geolgica Argentina, Pub. Esp. Serie B, Didcticay Complementaria 19, 628 pp. Llambas, E.J., Rapela, C.W., 1989. Las vulcanitas de Colipilli, Neuqun (37 S) y su relacin con otras unidades palegenas de la cordillera. Revista de la Asociacin Geolgica Argentina 44 (14), 224236. Melnick, D., Rosenau, M., Folguera, A., Echtler, H., 2006a. Neogene Tectonics of the Western ank of the Neuqun Andes, 37 39 30 S. In: Kay, S.M., Ramos, V.A. (Eds.), Evolution of an Andean Margin: A Tectonic and Magmatic View from the Andes to the Neuqun Basin (3539 S). Spec. Pap. Geol. Soc. America, 407, pp. 7395. Melnick, D., Charlet, F., Echtler, H., De Batist, M., 2006b. Incipient axial collapse of the Main Cordillera and strain partitioning gradient between the central and Patagonian Andes, Lago Laja, Chile. 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Tectonic evolution of the Andes of Neuqun: constraints derived from the magmatic arc and foreland deformation. In: Veiga, G.D., Spalletti, L., Howell, J.A., Schwarz, E. (Eds.), The Neuqun Basin: A Case Study in Sequence Stratigraphy and Basin Dynamics. Special Publications, vol. 252. Geological Society, London, pp. 1535. Ramos, V.A., Pimentel, M., Tunik, M., 2008. Late Cretaceous synorogenic deposits of the Neuqun Basin (3639 S): age constraints from U-Pb dating in detrital zircons. In: International Symposium on Andean Geodynamics, vol. 7, Nize, pp. 423426. Radic, J., Rojas, L., Carpinelli, A., Zurita, E., 2002. Evolucin tectnica de la Cuenca Terciaria de Cura Malln, regin cordillerana chileno-argentina (36 30 39 S). In: Congreso Geolgico Argentino, vol. 15, El Calafate, pp. 233241. Rojas Vera, E., Folguera, A., Zamora Valcarce, G., Ramos, V.A., 2008. The Loncopu Trough: a major orogenic collapse at the western Agrio fold and thrust belt

with the Loncopu Trough. At a broader scale the isostatic anomaly shows two peaks that dene an amplitude compatible with the area of crustal attenuation described by Yuan et al. (2006) (Fig. 9). Hypothetically, this scenario would point to the permanence of the youngest proposed extensional phenomena that would have started some 5 Ma ago. Orogenic uplift in the southern Central Andes could have been interrupted at least two times through the development of normal faults associated with sedimentation in the hinterland zone. Subsequent periods of contractional deformation would only have incorporated Paleogene extensional depocenters into the orogenic wedge, while a less than 5 Ma extension would not have been inverted yet in the area. Non-steady mountain growth and extensional deformation could be common processes during the evolution of the southern Central Andes at the latitudes of the Loncopu Trough. Finally, as stated before, different hypotheses have been proposed to explain Quaternary extension in the area: (i) as associated with local and surcial minor extension related to deeper compressional structures; (ii) as generated in strike-slip or low-partitioned strain settings, coexisting with compressional and/or transpressional structures (Lavenu and Cembrano, 1999; Back et al., 2006; Rosenau et al., 2006); and (iii) as related to Andean-scale axial synorogenic collapse, coexisting with contractional behavior in the foothills (Melnick et al., 2006a,b). The Early Pliocene to Quaternary extensional stage could also be the immediate reaction (slab steepening) to the 186 Ma Payenia shallow subduction zone that affected the area. This hypothesis is based on the fact that the area of extension less than 5 Ma old coincides with the area of eastward expansion of the arc in Late Miocene times. Causes of Late Oligocene to Early Miocene extension in the area are still being debated. Acknowledgments We acknowledge Randell Stephenson, Editor-in-Chief, and anonymous reviewers; and YPF SA for providing and processing seismic information. Early discussions with S.M. Kay, D. Melnick, D. Dhont, and P. Cobbold are also acknowledged. References
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