Mesozoic radiolarian faunas from the Antarctic Peninsula: age, tectonic and palaeoceanographic significance
New assemblages of Radiolaria, including some of the few occurrences of high southern latitude Jurassic and Cretaceous radiolarian faunas, show that several localities in the LeMay Group of Alexander Island range in age from latest Jurassic–earliest Cretaceous to at least Albian. By demonstrating that sedimentation and deformation in the LeMay Group was diachronous, younging oceanwards to the northwest, these new age assessments support the model of the LeMay Group as an accretionary complex. The polarity of subduction beneath Alexander Island was not affected by arc collisions from at least the Lower Jurassic to the Oligocene, and such a long period of continuous accretion appears to be unusual. Deposition of the LeMay Group spans the Kimmeridgian to Albian sedimentation in the Fossil Bluff Group fore-arc basin, thus making the earlier concept of the LeMay Group as pre-Jurassic ‘basement’ untenable. Allochthonous latest Jurassic–earliest Cretaceous radiolarian assemblages with some supposed Tethyan affinities are present in the LeMay Group. In contrast, an in situ latest Jurassic assemblage from the Nordenskjöld Formation of the back-arc basin and a further Jurassic assemblage from a probable trench-slope basin have characteristics believed diagnostic of high latitudes. The biogeographic affinities of radiolarians from cherts in the LeMay Group accretionary complex suggest that both these cherts, and associated basalts, are far-travelled slices of the Phoenix plate. Rocks from the probable trench-slope basin, formerly assigned to the younger Fossil Bluff Group fore-arc basin sequence, now appear to be part of a new, previously unrecognized formation.