Long-lived stable shelf deposition along Gondwana's southern margin during the Ordovician-Silurian: Inferences from U–Pb detrital zircon ages of the Table Mountain Group (South Africa) and correlatives in Argentina and the Falklands/Malvinas Islands

Clarisa Vorster, Jan D. Kramers, Nicolas J. Beukes, Cameron R. Penn-Clarke

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The Ordovician-Silurian siliciclastic units of the Table Mountain Group (TMG; Cape Supergroup) of the Cape Fold Belt (CFB) are classically considered to signify a period of long-lived sedimentation along the southern margin of southern Africa. Despite its vast, prominent outcrop, meaningful interpretations regarding the provenance of the TMG, based on a representative number of U–Pb detrital zircon age fractions, remains lacking. Within southern Gondwana, the TMG succession is considered broadly time-correlative to the Sierra del Volcan and Balcarce formations of the Sierras Tandilia and lowermost successions of the Ventana Group of the Sierras Australes in Argentina and the Port Stephens Formation of the West Falkland Group (WFG) in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands and Natal Group (South Africa). U–Pb detrital zircon ages have previously been reported for the Balcarce Formation and Ventana and West Falkland groups. However, their age fractions have not necessarily been compared to the broadly time –equivalent units of the TMG. In addition to the overall scarcity of detrital zircon age data on the TMG, the validity of using conventional, qualitative probability density diagrams to display and interpret such data sets have come into question, with some authors arguing for a quantitative approach for comparing detrital zircon age data sets. A total of 1521 concordant U–Pb detrital zircon ages and some 330 Lu–Hf isotope analysis for the Peninsula- and Skurweberg formations (TMG) are therefore contributed, from samples obtained throughout the CFB, along with detrital zircon age fractions for the Balcarce, Providencia and Port Stephens formations. A qualitative as well as quantitative approach to compare the U–Pb detrital zircon age fractions measured for these units were adapted. Noticeable similarities among detrital zircon age fractions of the Peninsula- and Skurweberg formations throughout the western to south-eastern reaches of the CFB could be confirmed by quantitative pairwise comparisons. These point towards very little change in sediment source during the deposition of the lower to upper formations of the TMG during the Ordovician-Silurian. Pairwise comparisons of the TMG zircon age fractions to those of the Balcarce-, Providencia and Port Stephens formations revealed that they all have major late Neoproterozoic to Cambrian and a late Mesoproterozoic to early Neoproterozoic age fractions in common, with some minor contributions from Ordovician-Silurian sources. Due to the overlap in prevalent detrital zircon age fractions as well as Hf-isotope signature of these units, it is difficult to assign a specific provenance area for them with a fair amount of confidence, even if dominant palaeocurrent directions are considered. A quantitative pairwise comparison among data sets of the same or time-equivalent formation did not necessarily allow for age fractions from different source areas to be sufficiently distinguished from each other. In contrast to the classically inferred Namaqua-Natal Metamorphic Complex (NNMC) as source major proto-source for the TMG, it is argued that the sediment sources were located much further to the north such as the Damara and Mozambique belts, given that parts of the NNMC were likely denudated and covered by the sediments such as those of the Nama and Vanrhynsdorp Groups during the Ordovician-Silurian. Older sedimentary successions such as the Nama Group, were likely recycled during the deposition of the TMG: a scenario which also provides a feasible explanation for the noticeable lack of Archean ages among the detrital zircon age fractions. The ages of the youngest detrital zircon fraction conforms to the maximum age of deposition as proposed in literature, although the newly reported ages does not allow for more stringent cross-basin correlations. Regions within Patagonia, considered to have been in relatively close proximity to the relevant depositories, and possibly the Famatinian Belt (Argentina), are considered the source of the youngest Ordovician-Silurian detrital zircons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120274
JournalChemical Geology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2021


  • Detrital zircon
  • Peninsula formation
  • Provenance
  • Skurweberg formation
  • Table Mountain Group
  • U-Pb ages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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