The first description and confirmation of the Vista Alegre impact structure in the Paraná flood basalts of southern Brazil


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Abstract– The Vista Alegre structure, centered at 25°57′S and 52°41′W, has been recently proposed as a meteorite impact structure. The 9.5 km-diameter structure is located in the Paraná state of southern Brazil, within the Paraná Basin, which contains one of the largest and most extensive flood basalt provinces on Earth. The Paraná flood basalts belong to the Serra Geral Formation and are temporally related to the opening of the South Atlantic Ocean, having been dated at about 133–132 Ma. Tholeiitic basalts dominate the western portion of Paraná state, with some minor rhyodacites. Morphologically, Vista Alegre has a prominent circular outline, in the form of an incomplete ring of escarpments, and an inner depression. The presence of a central uplift is not obvious, but it is inferred by the occurrence of deformed sandstone blocks near the center of the structure. These sandstones are possibly related to the Triassic Pirambóia Formation and/or to the Cretaceous Botucatu Formation. These units are normally at stratigraphic depths of about 700–800 m below the present surface in this portion of the Paraná Basin. The structure appears to be in an advanced erosion stage and its interior is occupied by a soil cover several meters thick, extensively used for agriculture. As a result there are limited outcrops in the interior of the structure, all of polymict breccias, some of them melt-bearing. We report the extensive occurrence of shatter cones, in the form of fine-grained rock clasts within the polymict breccias. The shatter cone-bearing breccias occur at different locations within the structure, separated by several kilometers. The nested shatter cones range in size from about 0.5 to 20 cm for individual cones, and up to half a meter for complete assemblages. The shatter cones formed in fine-grained Parana flood basalt and might be the first examples of shatter cones in such a rock type. In addition, planar deformation features (PDFs) were found in quartz grains within sedimentary rock clasts of the polymict breccia. These findings confirm the impact origin of the Vista Alegre structure.