EGU21-1346, updated on 03 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Constraining the age of the first pulse of continental rifting associated with the breakup of Pangea in Southwest Iberia

Margarida Vilas-Boas1, Niall W. Paterson2, Zélia Pereira3, Paulo Fernandes1, and Simonetta Cirilli4
Margarida Vilas-Boas et al.
  • 1Centre for Marine and Environmental Research, University of Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal (;
  • 2CASP, West Building, Madingley Rise, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0UD, United Kingdom (
  • 3Laboratório Nacional de Energia e Geologia, Rua da Amieira, 4465-965 S. Mamede de Infesta, Porto, Portugal (
  • 4Dipartimento di Fisica e Geologia, Università degli Studi di Perugia, 06123 Perugia, Italy (

The Algarve Basin is a Mesozoic sedimentary basin located in southern Portugal. The basin was initiated by rifting associated with the opening of the North and Central Atlantic Ocean during the initial breakup of Pangea. Sedimentation commenced with continental red beds, which unconformably overlie folded and faulted late Carboniferous strata. The red bed succession (Silves Sandstones) consists mainly of sandstones and conglomerates at the base, overlain by variegated mudstones interbedded with siltstones and dolomites (Silves Mudstones, Siltstones and Dolomites). The sandstones were deposited in alluvial environments, and the mudstones in alluvial to shallow lacustrine environments. Upper Triassic (Carnian to Norian) macrofossils are scarce in the red bed succession, occurring predominantly in the upper beds of the succession above the Silves Sandstones, and do not accurately constrain the age of the beginning of the Algarve Basin.

A palynological study of a new road cut outcrop of Silves Sandstones, located in central Algarve, was undertaken in order to ascertain its age. A 3 m thick bed of grey siltstones located ca. 2.5 m above the unconformity yielded age-diagnostic palynomorphs, which date the onset of sedimentation in the basin. Samples from the latter bed yielded a moderately well preserved, low diversity palynomorph assemblage, which is dominated by Aulisporites astigmosus, Converrucosisporites sp. and Tulesporites briscoensis. Other taxa present in the assemblage include Alisporites sp., Calamospora sp., Cycadopites sp., Deltoidospora sp., Ovalipollis cf. ovalis, Triadispora sp., and Vallasporites ignacii.

The dominance of A. astigmosus together with V. ignacii is indicative of an early Carnian age based on comparison with independently dated sections described elsewhere in Europe. This new dating evidence thus constrains the beginning of sedimentation in the Algarve Basin to the earliest Late Triassic. The co-occurrence of T. briscoensis and A. astigmosus suggests a mixing of palynofloral elements typical of North American and central European Carnian assemblages respectively, which is consistent with the intermediate position of Portugal between those regions. The dominance of phytoclasts and the absence of marine palynomorphs confirms a continental depositional environment as also suggested by sedimentary lithofacies.


The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Portuguese Foundation of Science and Technology (FCT) with the scholarship with the reference SFRH/BD/144125/2019 and would also like to acknowledge the financial support of the FCT to CIMA through UIDP/00350/2020.

How to cite: Vilas-Boas, M., W. Paterson, N., Pereira, Z., Fernandes, P., and Cirilli, S.: Constraining the age of the first pulse of continental rifting associated with the breakup of Pangea in Southwest Iberia, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1346,, 2021.