Exhumed subglacial landscape in Uruguay: Erosional landforms, depositional environments, and paleo-ice flow in the context of the late Paleozoic Gondwanan glaciation
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A well-exposed glacial surface sculpted on Precambrian crystalline basement rocks occurs below the glacial succession of the San Gregorio Formation on the eastern border of the Chaco-Parana Basin in Uruguay and was formed in the context of the late Paleozoic Gondwana Ice Age. On the glacial surface are asymmetric parallel streamlined bedrock landforms interpreted as whalebacks. The downglacier (lee-side) faces of the whalebacks have gentle slopes dipping NNW with striated and sometimes polished surfaces on crystalline rocks. These landforms are covered by 10–100-cm-thick layers of tillites and shear-laminated siltstones, suggesting glacial abrasion produced mainly by subglacial till sliding. The subglacial facies are ice-molded, and exhibit meso-scale glacial lineations such as ridges and grooves up to 30 m long and 30 cm deep. The subglacial association is directly overlain by proglacial fine-grained facies (rhythmites) with dropstones indicating a subaqueous depositional environment following ice-margin retreat. The fine-grained facies are erosively cut by a succession of sandstones with wave-generated stratification resting on a basal conglomerate. Intraformational striated surfaces, NNE-oriented, were found on four distinct bedding planes within the sandstone package and interpreted as ice keel scour marks produced by floating ice. The San Gregorio deposits are partially confined in a wide and shallow subglacial trough and the stratigraphic succession is interpreted as the record of a glacial advance-retreat cycle comparable to deglacial sequences from other late Paleozoic localities. The paleo-ice flow to the NNW indicated by subglacial lineations is parallel to that verified in the southernmost Paraná Basin located north of the study area, suggesting a paleogeographic scenario in which glaciers advanced northward into a glaciomarine environment. The proposed palaeogeography does not confirm the previous hypothesis of an ice center on the Sul-Riograndense Shield but, instead, it corroborates a south-derived Uruguayan Ice Lobe advancing to the north, probably with provenance far afield in terranes of the present-day southern African.