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Keywords:

  • archaeocyaths;
  • South America;
  • Gondwana;
  • Late Palaeozoic glaciations;
  • Sierras Australes;
  • Buenos Aires

In South America, autochthonous archaeocyathan faunas preserved in Early Cambrian limestones have not been found yet. Nevertheless, a few well-documented occurrences of these fossils in clasts contained in coarse-grained rocks of a wide age range have been discovered in recent years. Erratic limestone blocks from the Late Carboniferous–Early Permian Fitzroy Tillite Formation in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands yielded three archaeocyath taxa. Also, seven taxa were reported from archaeocyathan limestone clasts in a metaconglomerate of the Cambro-Ordovician El Jagüelito Formation in northern Patagonia. In addition, a new record from the Late Carboniferous–Early Permian Sauce Grande Formation diamictites in Sierras Australes, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, is presented herein. Preservation of this scarce new material is poor, but at least three different taxa can be distinguished. The most likely source of all archaeocyathan limestone clasts found in southern South America is the Shackleton Limestone from the Transantarctic Mountains in East Antarctica. The new record from the Sauce Grande Formation and the inferred clast provenance reinforce the correlation between this unit, the Dwyka Tillite (South Africa) and the Fitzroy Tillite Formation (Falklands/Malvinas), suggesting a very wide distribution of these Antarctic occurrences during the Late Carboniferous–Early Permian Gondwana glaciation (Episode III). Thus, even though being allochthonous, archaeocyaths are emerging as a new key biological feature for Gondwana palaeogeographic reconstructions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.