Structural and thermochronological evidence for Paleogene basement-involved shortening in the axial Eastern Cordillera, Colombia

Joel E. Saylor, Brian K. Horton, Daniel F. Stockli, Andrés Mora, Jaime Corredor

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46 Scopus citations


Although most recent studies regard the northern Andes primarily as a low-shortening inversion orogen, new mapping and thermochronology along the paired basement-involved Floresta massif and Floresta basin in the axial Eastern Cordillera of Colombia suggest major Paleogene shortening in a ramp-flat fold-thrust belt. Field mapping indicates that the hanging wall of the east-directed Soápaga fault system contains a series of upright thrust sheets with flat-on-flat cutoff relationships and a deformed footwall characterized by a complex triangle zone. These geometries necessitate roughly east-west shortening exceeding that of a previously mapped overturned hanging wall anticline and disharmonic footwall folds. Zircon (U-Th)/He (ZHe) ages indicate exhumation-induced cooling of the Soápaga hanging wall through the ∼180 °C closure temperature at 31-25 Ma. This cooling postdated documented shortening to the west and predated shortening to the east, suggesting an eastward progression of Paleogene deformation. Synorogenic Oligocene footwall strata of the Floresta basin contain distal fine-grained sediments and lack growth strata or Oligocene detrital ZHe ages, suggesting relatively high heave along the Soápaga fault system. These results are consistent with a rapidly eastward-propagating, basement-involved fold-thrust belt with ramp-flat structures that accommodated tens of km of shortening. Long-term stasis of the deformation front on the eastern and western flanks of the Eastern Cordillera due to localization of Neogene shortening along Mesozoic rift-bounding normal faults indicates a shift in deformational style in late Oligocene-early Miocene time. This geometric and temporal framework implies: 1) a total shortening in the northern Andes exceeding most current estimates; 2) Paleogene deformation in the Eastern Cordillera marked by rapid advances of the deformation front along a ramp-flat thrust system; and 3) focused Neogene reactivation (inversion) of master rift-bounding faults achieved by earlier crustal thickening related to ramp-flat thrust deformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-215
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of South American Earth Sciences
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • (U-Th)/He
  • Colombia
  • Inversion
  • Structural geology
  • Thermochronology
  • Zircon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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