Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Towards a Southern European Tethyan Palaeomargin provenance signature: sandstone detrital modes and detrital zircon U–Pb age distribution of the Upper Cretaceous–Paleocene Monte Bignone Sandstones (Ligurian Alps, NW Italy)


Constraining the source terranes of Alpine siliciclastic flysch sequences is crucial for building a clearer picture of the palaeogeography and geodynamic evolution of the Western Tethys in the framework of impending continental collision. This paper presents an integrated study that involves palaeocurrent dispersal analysis, sandstone petrography and detrital zircon geochronology of the Upper Cretaceous–Paleocene Monte Bignone Sandstones, a siliciclastic turbidite system deposited during the pre-collisional evolution of the Ligurian Alps. Palaeocurrent analysis illustrates an overall eastward transport of the proximal sediments in the present configuration. Considering the ca. 45°–50° counter-clockwise rotation of the Tertiary Piedmont Basin and of the Corsica–Sardinia block in the late Paleogene, this indicates the derivation of the sediments from the northern margin of the Piedmont–Ligurian Ocean. Sandstone petrography records a stratigraphic evolution from quartzose sandstones towards lithic and then to lithic sub-arkosic composition. This trend is interpreted to reflect the gradual unroofing of the provenance terrane. The lithotypes of the recycled sedimentary rock fragments and the up-section increase in dolostone and carbonate clast proportions suggest the erosion of the sedimentary cover of the southern European palaeo-margin. New geochronological data (U–Pb detrital zircon ages) correspond to the pre-Alpine stages of crustal growth recorded in the Variscan Maures-Tanneron Massif, and therewith confirm the derivation of the sediments from the passive palaeo-European margin. This conclusion highlights the importance of the lower plate in providing the source of coarse-clastic deep-water successions during pre-collisional convergent steps. Results from this multi-proxy provenance analysis contribute to better defining the detrital signatures associated to the continental micro-fragments that constituted the palaeo-European plate as it supplied deep-sea siliciclastic sediments into the Piedmont–Ligurian Ocean prior to continental collision.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Modified from Boni and Vanossi (1972), Lanteaume et al. (1990), Di Giulio (1992) and Maino et al. (2015)

Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11


  1. Avigad D, Chopin C, Le Bayon R (2003) Thrusting and extension in the Southern Dora-Maira Ultra-High-Pressure Massif (Western Alps): view from below the coesite-bearing unit. J Geol 111:57–70

  2. Avigad D, Gerdes A, Morag N, Bechstädt T (2012) Coupled U–Pb–Hf of detrital zircons of Cambrian sandstones from Morocco and Sardinia: implication for provenance and Precambrian crustal evolution of North Africa. Gondwana Res 21:690–703

  3. Avigad D, Rossi P, Gerdes A, Abbo A (2018) Cadomian metasediments and Ordovician sandstone from Corsica: detrital zircon U–Pb–Hf constrains on their provenance and paleogeography. Int J Earth Sci 107:2803–2818

  4. Ballèvre M, Manzotti P, Dal Piaz GV (2018) Pre-Alpine (Variscan) inheritance: a key for the location of the future Valaisan Basin (Western Alps). Tectonics 37:786–817

  5. Barale L (2014) The Meso-Cenozoic stratigraphic succession adjoining the Argentera Massif: stratigraphic, sedimentologic and diagenetic evidence of syndepositional tectonics. Stratigraphy. Dissertation, Universita degli Studi di Torino, p 240

  6. Barale L, d’Atri A, Piana F (2016) The Meso-Cenozoic stratigraphic succession of the Col de Braus area (Maritime Alps, SE France). J Maps 12(5):804–814

  7. Barale L, Bertok C, d’Atri A, Martire L, Piana F (2017) Stratigraphy, sedimentology and syndepositional tectonics of the Jurassic-Cretaceous succession at the transition between Provençal and Dauphinois domains (Maritime Alps, NW Italy). Riv It Paleontol Strat 123:355–378

  8. Beltrán-Triviño A, Winkler W, von Quadt A (2013) Tracing Alpine sediment sources through laser ablation U–Pb dating and Hf-isotopes of detrital zircons. Sedimentology 60:197–224

  9. Boni A, Vanossi M (1960) Ricerche e considerazioni sul flysch della Liguria occidentale. Atti Ist Geol Univ Pavia 11:31–178

  10. Boni A, Vanossi M (1972) Carta geologica dei terreni compresi tra il Brianzonese Ligure s.l. ed il Flysch ad Elmintoidi s.s. Atti Ist. Geol. Univ. Pavia 23, carta allegata, Pavia

  11. Bracciali L, Marroni M, Pandolfi L, Rocchi S (2007) Geochemistry and petrography of Western Tethys Cretaceous sedimentary covers (Corsica and Northern Apennines): from source area to configuration of margins. In: Arribas J, Critelli S, Johnsson MJ (eds) Sedimentary provenance and petrogenesis: perspectives from petrography and geochemistry. GSA Special Paper 420, pp 73–93

  12. Bütler E, Winkler W, Guillong M (2011) Laser ablation U/Pb age patterns of detrital zircons in the Schlieren Flysch (Central Switzerland): new evidence on the detrital sources. Swiss J Geosci 104:225–236

  13. Caron C, Homewood P, Wildi W (1989) The Original Swiss Flysch: a reappraisal of the type deposits in the Swiss Prealps. Int J Earth Sci 26:1–45

  14. Carrapa B, Di Giulio A, Mancin N, Stockli D, Fantoni R, Hughes A, Gupta S (2016) Tectonic significance of Cenozoic exhumation and foreland basin evolution in the Western Alps. Tectonics 35:1892–1912

  15. Casini L, Cuccuru S, Maino M, Oggiano G, Tiepolo M (2012) Emplacement of the Arzachena Pluton (Corsica–Sardinia Batholith) and the geodynamics of incoming Pangaea. Tectonophysics 544–545:31–49

  16. Cassinis G, Perotti C, Santi G (2018) Post-Variscan Verrucano-like deposits in Italy, and the onset of the alpine tectono-sedimentary cycle. Earth Sci Rev 185:476–497

  17. Chu Y, Lin W, Faure M, Wang Q (2016) Detrital zircon U–Pb ages and Hf isotopic constraints on the terrigenous sediments of the Western Alps and their paleogeographic implications. Tectonics 35:1–20

  18. Cox R, Lowe DR (1995) A conceptual review of regional scale controls on the compositions of clastic sediments and the co-evolution of continental blocks and their sedimentary cover. J Sediment Res 65:1–12

  19. Critelli S, Arribas J, Le Pera E, Tortosa A, Marmaglia KM, Latter KK (2003) The recycled orogenic sand provenance from an uplifted thrust belt, Betic Cordillera, southern Spain. J Sediment Res 73:72–81

  20. D´Atri A, Piana F, Barale L, Bertok C, Martire L (2016) Geological setting of the southern termination of Western Alps. Int J Earth Sci 105:1831–1858

  21. Dal Piaz GV (1999) The Austroalpine-Piedmont nappe stack and the puzzle of Alpine Tethys. Mem Sci Geol Padova 51:155–176

  22. Dal Piaz GV, Bistacchi A, Massironi M (2003) Geological outline of the Alps. Episodes 26:175–180

  23. Decarlis A, Beltrando M, Manatschal G, Ferrando S, Carosi R (2017) Architecture of the distal Piedmont-Ligurian rifted margin in NW Italy: hints for a flip of the rift system polarity. Tectonics 36:2388–2406

  24. Demoux A, Scharer U, Corsini M (2008) Variscan evolution of the Tanneron massif, SE France, examined through U-Pb monazite ages. J Geol Soc London 165:467–478

  25. Di Giulio A (1985) Sull’eta terziaria dei Calcari di Ubaga, Successione di Borghetto d’Arroscia-Alassio (Alpi Marittime). Riv It Paleont Strat 92:251–260

  26. Di Giulio A (1992) The evolution of the Western Ligurian Flysch Units and the role of mud diapirism in ancient accretionary prisms (Maritime Alps, Northwestern Italy). Int J Earth Sci 81:655–668

  27. Di Giulio A, Galbiati B (1991) Le facies caotiche della Liguria occidentale: un nuovo modello interpretativo. Atti Ticinensi Sci Terra 34:155–160

  28. Di Giulio A, Valloni R (1992) Analisi microscopia delle arentiti terrigene: parametri petrologici e composizioni modali. Acta Naturalia de l´Ateneo Parmese 28:55–101

  29. Di Giulio A, Ronchi A, Sanfilippo A, Balgord EA, Carrapa B, Ramos VA (2017) Cretaceous evolution of the Andean margin between 36°S and 40°S latitude through a multiproxy provenence analysis of Neuquen Basin strata (Argentina). Basin Res 29(3):284–304

  30. Dickinson WR (1970) Interpreting detrital modes of graywacke and arkose. J Sediment Petrol 40(2):695–707

  31. Dickinson WR (1985) Interpreting provenance relations from detrital modes of sandstones. In: Zuffa GG (ed) Provenance of arenites: 165–189, NATO ASI Ser., Dordrecht (Reidel)

  32. Dickinson WR, Gehrels GE (2009) Use of U–Pb ages of detrital zircons to infer maximum depositional ages of strata: a test against a Colorado Plateau Mesozoic database. Earth Planet Sci Lett 288:115–125

  33. Dickinson WR, Suczek C (1979) Plate tectonics and sandstone compositions. AAPG Bull 63:2164–2182

  34. Diekmann B, Wopfner H (1996) Petrographic and diagenetic signatures of climatic change in peri and postglacial Karoo Sediments of SW Tanzania. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 125:5–25

  35. Duchesne JC, Liégois JP, Bolle O, Vander Auwera J, Bruguier O, Matukov DI, Sergeev SA (2013) The fast evolution of a crustal hot zone at the end of a transpressional regime: the Saint-Tropez peninsula granites and related dykes (Maures Massif, SE France). Lithos 162–162:195–220

  36. Dunkl I, Di Giulio A, Kuhlemann J (2001) Combination of single-grain fission track chronology and morphological analyses of detrital zircon crystals in provenance studies—origin of the Macigno Formation (Apennines, Italy). J Sediment Res 71:515–524

  37. Durand M (2008) Permian to Triassic continental successions in southern Provence (France): an overview. Boll Soc Geol It 127(3):697–716

  38. Fonneland HC, Lien T, Martinsen OJ, Pedersen RB, Kosler J (2004) Detrital zircon ages: a key to understanding the deposition of deep marine sandstones in the Norwegian Sea. Sediment Geol 164:147–159

  39. Fornelli A, Micheletti F, Piccarreta G (2016) Late-Proterozoic to Paleozoic history of the peri-Gondwana Calabria-Peloritani Terrane inferred from a review of zircon chronology. Springerplus 5:1–19

  40. Franke W, Robin M, Cocks L, Torsvik TH (2017) The Palaeozoic Variscan oceans revisited. Gondwana Res 48:257–284

  41. Franz L, Romer RL (2007) Caledonian high-pressure metamorphism in the Strona-Ceneri Zone (Southern Alps of southern Switzerland and northern Italy). Swiss J Geosci 100:457–467

  42. Frisch W, Neubauer F, Satir M (1984) Concepts of the evolution of the Austroalpine basement complex (Eastern Alps) during the Caledonian-Variscan cycle. Int J Earth Sci 73:47–68

  43. Froitzheim N, Plasienka D, Schuster R (2008) Alpine tectonics of the Alps and Western Carapathians. In: McCann T (ed) The geology of Central Europe: Mesozoic and cenozoic, vol 2. The Geological society, London, pp 1141–1232

  44. Galbiati B (1982) Nuovi dati e considerazioni sull’elemento di Borghetto d’Arroscia (Alpi liguri). Rend Soc Geol It 4:339–341

  45. Galbiati B (1986) L’unità di Borghetto d’Arroscia-Alassio. Mem Società Geol d’Italia 28:181–210

  46. Garzanti E, Doglioni C, Vezzoli G, Ando S (2007) Orogenic belts and orogenic sediment provenance. J Geol 115:315–334

  47. Garzanti E, Ando S, France-Lanord C, Vezzoli G, Censi P, Galy V, Najman Y (2010) Mineralogical and chemical variability of fluvial sediments 1. Bedload sand (Ganga–Brahmaputra, Bangladesh). Earth Planet Sci Lett 299:368–381

  48. Garzanti E, Limonta M, Resentini A, Bandopadhyay PC, Najman Y, Andò S, Vezzoli G (2013) Sediment recycling at convergent plate margins (Indo-Burman Ranges and Andaman-Nicobar Ridge). Earth Sci Rev 123:113–132

  49. Gazzi P (1966) Le arenarie del flysch sopracretaceo dell’Appenino modenese: correlazioni con il flysch di Monghidoro. Miner Petrogr Acta 12:69–97

  50. Gehrels G (2011) Detrital zircon U–Pb geochronology: current methods and new opportunities. In: Tectonics of sedimentary basins: recent advances, pp 45–62

  51. Giacomini F, Braga R, Tiepolo M, Tribuzio R (2007) New constraints on the origin and age of Variscan eclogitic rocks (Ligurian Alps, Italy). Contrib Mineral Petrol 153:29–53

  52. Giorgis D, Thélin P, Stampfli M, Bussy F (1999) The Mont-Mort metapelites: variscan metamorphism and geodynamic context (Briançonnais basement, Western Alps, Switzerland). Schweiz Mineral Petrogr Mitt 79:381–398

  53. Gutiérrez-Alonso G, Fernández-Suárez J, Pastor-Galán D, Johnston ST, Linnemann U, Hofmann M, Shaw J, Colmenero JR, Hernández P (2015) Significance of detrital zircons in Siluro-Devonian rocks from Iberia. J Geol Soc Lond 172:309–322

  54. Handy MR, Schmid SM, Bousquet R, Kissling E, Bernoulli D (2010) Reconciling plate-tectonic reconstructions of Alpine Tethys with the geological record of spreading and subduction in the Alps. Earth Sci Rev 102:121–158

  55. Homewood P (1983) Paleogeography of alpine flysch. Paleogeogr Paleoclimatol Paleoecol 44:169–184

  56. Homewood P, Laveltin O (1988) Classic swiss clastics (flysch and molasse): the Alpine connection. Geodin Acta 2:1–11

  57. Ingersoll RV, Bullard TF, Ford RD, Grimm JP, Pickle JD, Sares SW (1984) The effect of grain size on detrital modes: a test of the Gazzi-Dickinson point-counting method. J Sediment Petrol 54:103–116

  58. Innocent C, Michard A, Guerrot C (2003) U–Pb zircon age of 548 Ma for the leptynites (high grade felsic rocks) of the central part of the Maures massif. Geodynamic significance of the so-called leptyno-amphibolitic complex of the Variscan belt of Western Europe. Bull Soc Géol Fr 174:585–594

  59. Jackson SE, Pearson NJ, Griffin WL, Belousova EA (2004) The application of laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry to in situ U-Pb zircon geochronology. Chem Geol 211:47–69

  60. Lanteaume M (1962) Contribution à l’étude géologique des Alpes Maritimes franco-italiennes. Thèse Sc. Nat., Paris, no 4649, p 413

  61. Lanteaume M, Radulescu N, Gavos M, Feraud J (1990) Notice explicative, Carte Géol. De France (1/50.000), feuille Viève-Tende (948). BRGM, Orleans, p 139

  62. Lash GG (1987) Longitudinal petrographic variations in a Middle Ordovician trench deposit, central Appalachian Orogen. Sedimentology 34:227–235

  63. Lihou JC, Mange-Rajetzky MA (1996) Provenance of the Sardona Flysch, Eastern Swiss Alps: example of high-resolution heavy mineral analysis applied to an ultrastable assemblage. Sediment Geol 105:141–157

  64. Lin W, Rossi P, Faure M, Li X-H, Ji W, Chu Y (2018) Detrital zircon age patterns from turbidites of the Balagne and Piedmont nappes of Alpine Corsica (France): evidence for an European margin source. Tectonophysics 722:69–105

  65. Linnemann U, Pereira F, Jeffries TE, Drost K, Gerdes A (2008) The Cadomian Orogeny and the opening of the Rheic Ocean: the diachrony of geotectonic processes constrained by LA-ICP-MS U–Pb zircon dating (Ossa-Morena and Saxo-Thuringian Zones, Iberian and Bohemian Massifs). Tectonophysics 461:21–43

  66. Lopez Jimenez R, Cronin BT, Turner CC, Celik H, Bastidas R, Kneller BC (2018) The Alikayasi Canyon-Channel System (Miocene, SE Turkey) compared with the South Brae Fan System (Upper Jurassic, North Sea): characterising sand and gravel filled channel complexes in coarse-grained deep-water systems without gravel cone geometries. In: Turner CC, Cronin BT (eds) Rift-related coarse-grained submarine fan reservoirs: the Brae Play, South Viking Graben, North Sea. AAPG Memoir, pp 595–618

  67. Maffione M, Speranza F, Faccenna C, Cascella A, Vignaroli G, Sagnotti L (2008) A synchronous Alpine and Corsica-Sardinia rotation. J Geophys Res. https://doi.org/10.1029/2007JB005214

  68. Maino M, Casini L, Ceriani A, Decarlis A, Di Giulio A, Seno S, Setti M, Stuart FM (2015) Dating shallow thrusts with zircon (U-Th)/He thermochronometry—the shear heating connection. Geology 43:495–498

  69. Maino M, Gaggero L, Langone A, Seno S, Fanning M (2019) Cambro-Silurian magmatism at the northern Gondwana margin (Penninic basement of the Ligurian Alps). Geosci Front 10:315–330

  70. Manzotti P, Poujol M, Ballèvre M (2015) Detrital zircon geochronology in blueschist-facies meta-conglomerates from the Western Alps: implications for the late Carboniferous to early Permian palaeogeography. Int J Earth Sci 104:703–721

  71. Manzotti P, Ballèvre M, Poujol M (2016) Detrital zircon geochronology in the Dora Maira and Zone Houillère: a record of sediment travel paths in the Carboniferous. Terra Nova 28:279–288

  72. Marini M, Terranova R (1985) Nuovi dati sulla litostratigrafia dei flysch della Liguria occidentale e sui loro rapporti strutturali. Atti Soc Tosc Sc Nat 92:95–163

  73. Marini M, Milli S, Ravnas R, Moscatelli A (2015) A comparative study of confined vs. semi-confined turbidite lobes from the Lower Messinian Laga Basin (Central Apennines, Italy): implications for assessment of reservoir architecture. Mar Petrol Geol 63:142–165

  74. Marroni M, Meneghini F, Pandolfi L (2010) Anatomy of the Ligure-Piemontese subduction system: evidence from Late Cretaceous–middle Eocene convergent margin deposits in the Northern Apennines, Italy. Int Geol Rev 52:1160–1192

  75. Michard A, Martinotti G (2002) The Eocene unconformity of the Briançonnais domain in the French—Italian Alps, revisited (Marguareis massif, Cuneo): a hint for a Late Cretaceous—Middle Eocene frontal bulge setting. Geodin Acta 15:5–6

  76. Molli G (2008) Northern Apennine-Corsica orogenic system: an updated overview. In: Siegesmund S, Fügenschuh B, Froitzheim N (eds) Tectonic aspects of the Alpine–Dinaride–Carpathian system, vol 298. The Geological Society, London, pp 413–442

  77. Moussavou M (1998) Contribution à l’histoire thermo-tectonique varisque du massif des Maures par la typologie du zircon et la géochronologie U/Pb sur minéraux accessoires. PhD Thesis, University of Montpellier 2, p 187

  78. Mueller P, Langone A, Patacci M, Di Giulio A (2018) Detrital signatures of impending collision: the deep-water record of the Upper Cretaceous Bordighera Sandstone and its basal complex (Ligurian Alps, Italy). Sediment Geol 377:147–161

  79. Oliot E, Melleton J, Schneider J, Corsini M, Gardien V, Rolland Y (2015) Variscan crustal thickening in the Maures-Tanneron massif (South Variscan belt, France): new in situ monazite U–Th–Pb chemical dating of high-grade rocks. Bull Soc Géol Fr 186:145–169

  80. Patacci M (2016) A high-precision Jacob’s staff with improved spatial accuracy and laser sighting capability. Sediment Geol 335:66–69

  81. Pavanetto P, Funedda A, Northrup CJ, Schmitz M, Crowley J, Loi A (2012) Structure and U–Pb zircon geochronology in the Variscan foreland of SW Sardinia, Italy. Geol J 47:426–445

  82. Perotti M, Andreucci B, Talarico F, Zattin M, Langone A (2017) Multi-analytical provenance analysis of Eastern Ross Sea LGM till sediments (Antarctica): petrography, geochronology, and thermochronology detrital data. Geochem Geophys 18(6):2275–2304

  83. Ragusa J, Kindler P (2018) Compositional variations in deep-sea gravity-flow deposits. A case study from the Voirons Flysch (Voirons-Wägital complex, Chablais Prealps, France). Sediment Geol 377:111–130

  84. Ragusa J, Kindler P, Segvic B, Ospina-Ostios LM (2017) Provenance analysis of the Voirons Flysch (Gurnigel nappe, Haute-Savoie, France): stratigraphic and palaeogeographic implications. Int J Earth Sci 106:2619–2651

  85. Rossi P, Oggiano G, Cocherie A (2009) A restored section of the “southern Variscan realm” across the Corsica-Sardinia microcontinent. C R Gèosci 341:224–238

  86. Saylor JE, Jordan JC, Sundell KE, Wang X, Wang S, Deng T (2017) Topographic growth of the Jishi Shan and its impact on basin and hydrology evolution, NE Tibetan Plateau. Basin Res 30:544–563

  87. Schaltegger U, Gebauer D (1999) Pre-Alpine geochronology of the Central, Western and Southern Alps. Schweiz Mineral Petrogr Mitt 79:79–87

  88. Schmid MS, Fügenschuh B, Kissling E, Schuster R (2004) Tectonic map and overall architecture of the Alpine orogen. Ecl Geol Helv 97:93–117

  89. Seno S, Dallagiovanna G, Vanossi M (2005) Pre-Piedmont and Piedmont-Ligurian nappes in the central sector of the Ligurian Alps: a possible pathway for their superposition on to the inner Briançonnais units. Bollett Soc Geol Ital 124(2):455–464

  90. Shaw J, Gutiérrez-Alonso G, Johnston S, Pastor-Galán D (2014) Provenance variability along the early Ordovician north Gondwana margin: paleogeographic and tectonic implications of U–Pb detrital zircon ages from the Armorican Quartzite of the Iberian Variscan belt. GSA Bull 126:702–719

  91. Sirevaag H, Jacobs J, Ksienzyk AK, Rocchi S, Paoli G, Jørgensen GH, Košler J (2016) From Gondwana to Europe: the journey of Elba Island (Italy) as recorded by U/Pb detrital zircon ages of Paleozoic metasedimentary rocks. Gondwana Res 38:273–288

  92. Sláma J, Kosler J, Condon DJ, Crowley JL, Gerdes A, Hanchar JM, Horstwood MSA, Morris GA, Nasdala L, Norberg N, Schaltegger U, Schoene B, Tubrett MN, Whitehouse MJ (2008) Plesovice zircon—a new natural reference material for U–Pb and Hf isotopic microanalysis. Chem Geol 249(1–2):1–35

  93. Stampfli GMM, Mosar J, Marquer D, Marchant R, Baudin T, Borel G (1998) Subduction and obduction processes in the Swiss Alps. Tectonophysics 296:159–204

  94. Stampfli GM, Borel GD, Marchant R, Mosar J (2002a) Western Alps geological constraints on western Tethyan reconstructions. J Virtual Explorer 8:77–106

  95. Stampfli GM, von Raumer J, Borel G (2002b) The Paleozoic evolution of pre-Variscan terranes: from Gondwana to the Variscan collision. GSA Spec Publ 364:263–280

  96. Stampfli GM, von Raumer J, Wilhem C (2011) The distribution of Gondwana derived terranes in the early Paleozoic. In: Gutiérrez-Marco JC, Rábano I, García-Bellido D (eds) The Ordovician of the world, vol 14. Cuadernos del Museo Geominero, Instituto Geológico y Minero de España, Madrid, pp 567–574

  97. Stanley DJ (1965) Heavy minerals and provenance of sands in flysch of central and southern French Alps. AAPG Bull 49:22–40

  98. Stephan T, Kroner U, Romer RL (2019) The pre-orogenic detrital zircon record of the Peri-Gondwanan crust. Geol Mag 156(2):281–307

  99. Studer B (1825) Monographie der Molasse. CA Jenni, Bern, pp. 416

  100. Thomas WA (2011) Detrital-zircon geochronology and sedimentary provenance. Lithosphere 3:304–308

  101. Thum L, De Paoli R, Stampfli GM, Moix P (2015) The Piolit, Pelat and Baiardo Upper Cretaceous flysch formations (western Alps): geodynamic implications at the time of the Pyrenean tectonic phases. Bull Soc Géol Fr 186:209–221

  102. Valloni R, Zuffa GG (1984) Provenance changes for arenaceous formations of the northern Apennines, Italy. GSA Bull 95:1035–1039

  103. Van Achterbergh E, Ryan CG, Jackson SE, Griffin WL (2001) Data reduction software for LA-ICP-MS. Laser-Ablation-ICPMS in the earth sciences—principles and applications. Mineralog Assoc (Canada Short Course Series) 29:239–243

  104. Vanossi M, Cortesogno L, Galbiati B, Messiga B, Piccardo G, Vannucci R (1986) Geologia delle Alpi Liguri: dati, problemi, ipotesi. Mem Soc Geol It 28:5–75

  105. Vermeesch P (2012) On the visualisation of detrital age distributions. Chem Geol 312:190–194

  106. Vermeesch P (2018) IsoplotR: a free and open toolbox for geochronology. Geosci Front 9:1479–1493

  107. Vezzoli G, Garzanti E, Monguzzi S (2004) Erosion in the Western Alps (Dora Baltea basin). 1. Quantifying sediment provenance. Sediment Geol 171:227–246

  108. Von Raumer JF, Stampfli GM, Bussy F (2003) Gondwana-derived microcontinents-the constituents of the Variscan and Alpine collisional orogens. Tectonophysics 365:7–22

  109. Von Raumer JF, Stampfli GM, Arenas R, Sánchez Martínez S (2015) Ediacaran to Cambrian oceanic rocks of the Gondwana margin and their tectonic interpretation. Int J Earth Sci 104:1107–1121

  110. Wiedenbeck M, Alle P, Corfu F, Griffin WL, Meier M, Oberli F, Von Quadt A, Roddick JC, Spiegel W (1995) Three natural zircon standards for U-Th–Pb, Lu–Hf, trace element and REE analyses. Geostand Newslett 19:1–23

  111. Wildi W (1985) Heavy mineral distribution and dispersal pattern in penninic and ligurian flysch basins (Alps, northern Apennines). Giorn Geol 47:77–99

  112. Winkler W (1984) Palaeocurrents and petrography of the Gurnigel-Schlierenflysch: a basin analysis. Sediment Geol 40:169–189

  113. Zuffa GG (1985) Optical analyses of arenites: influence of methodology on compositional results. In: Zuffa GG (ed) Provenance of arenites, NATO-ASI Series 148. Reidel, Dordrecht, pp 165–189

Download references


Financial support for this research was provided by the University of Pavia research Grant to P. Mueller. Field work was supported by funding provided by the Turbidite Research Group sponsors: AkerBP, BP, ConocoPhilips, Equinor, Eni, Hess, Murphy Oil Corporation, OMV and Shell. We are grateful to M. Zattin (University of Padova) for the heavy mineral separation and to M. Palenzona (CNR Pavia) for assistance with CL images. We thank U. Linnemann and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful suggestions that improved the manuscript. Journal editors W.-C. Dullo and T. Voigt are thanked for their corrections and editorial handling.

Author information

Correspondence to Pierre Mueller.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 85 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mueller, P., Langone, A., Patacci, M. et al. Towards a Southern European Tethyan Palaeomargin provenance signature: sandstone detrital modes and detrital zircon U–Pb age distribution of the Upper Cretaceous–Paleocene Monte Bignone Sandstones (Ligurian Alps, NW Italy). Int J Earth Sci (Geol Rundsch) 109, 201–220 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00531-019-01797-5

Download citation


  • Sandstone provenance
  • (U–Pb) detrital zircon chronology
  • Southern European Tethyan Palaeomargin provenance signature
  • Piedmont–Ligurian Ocean
  • Impending collision