Upper Ordovician (Caradocian) carbonates of eastern North America were deposited along the Iapetus continental margin and record a transition from warm- to cool-water settings despite this margin having been within the southern hemisphere tropical belt. This event has been documented from Virginia (USA) to southern Québec (Canada) although, not previously from areas close to the palaeoequator.
Field, petrographic and major element geochemistry data have been gathered from the poorly-known Upper Ordovician carbonate succession outcropping in the Lac Saint-Jean outlier in central Québec. The succession consists of a lower siliciclastic formation (Tremblay) overlain by three limestone formations (Simard, Shipshaw and Galets) and capped by shales (Pointe-Bleue Shale). From macro- and microfaunal evidence, carbonate sedimentation occurred during the late Caradoc and is younger than the early- to mid-Caradoc carbonate succession present farther south. Relative sea level fluctuations recorded in the sediments suggest an overall sea level rise briefly halted by a minor end-Caradocian sea level fall.
The lower limestone formation (Simard) consists of muddy sediments with algal-coral-stromatoporoid boundstones; green algae are abundant. This unit reflects low energy sedimentation on a shallow warm-water carbonate ramp colonized by a diverse chlorozoan fauna. The upper limestone formation (Galets) is typified by coarse-grained bioclastic sediments punctuated by numerous phosphate-rich hardgrounds with evidence for high energy shallow marine conditions. Faunas were dominated by crinoids and bryozoans. This unit represents high energy sedimentation on a cool shallow water carbonate ramp colonized by a brynoderm faunal association. Between both units, a deeper marine (outer shelf) limestone formation (Shipshaw) was developed.
In the Lac Saint-Jean area, a transition from warm- to cool-water carbonate ramps occurred in latest Caradoc times and is litho- and biofacies-wise, similar to what is documented for lower Caradocian limestones present farther south. Upwelling of nutrient-rich cool bottom oceanic waters was a probable cause for this transition.