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Heavy mineral provenance and paleocurrent data of the

Upper Cretaceous Gosau succession of the Apuseni

Mountains (Romania)


University of Tübingen, Institute for Geosciences, Sigwartstrasse 10, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany;;

(Manuscript received January 26, 2005; accepted in revised form June 16, 2005)

Abstract: Heavy mineral assemblages from profiles of Upper Cretaceous Gosau sediments of the Apuseni Mts (Roma-
nia) help to reveal source areas and to get clues about geodynamic processes leading to erosion of distinct rocks in the
surrounding geological units. The samples from the Lower Gosau Subgroup reflect no distinct heavy mineral predomi-
nance: metamorphic and magmatic sources are largely balanced. The Upper Gosau Subgroup is characterized by an
increase in minerals derived from metamorphic rocks. Increasing amounts of apatite reflect the onset of the banatite
magmatism during Campanian time. Cr-spinel was found in most of the profiles and in different stratigraphic horizons,
reflecting erosion of obducted oceanic crust situated south and southeast of the Gosau basin (in present-day coordinates).
Paleocurrents indicate that sedimentary supply was provided from both sides of the elongated forearc basin. On the basis
of paleocurrent indicators and heavy mineral spectra we propose a scenario with erosion of a forearc ridge on the one side
of the basin and a crystalline basement on the other. The increase in metamorphic heavy minerals indicates enhanced
erosion in the uplifting crystalline hinterland (mainly composed of the Bihor Autochthonous Unit) during sedimentation
of the Upper Gosau Subgroup.

Key words: Eastern Alps, Apuseni Mts, Gosau succession, paleocurrent directions, heavy minerals.


The Upper Cretaceous Gosau successions of the Apuseni
Mts have been described by several geologists, generally
on the basis of classical sedimentological and paleontologi-
cal data (e.g. Lupu 1970; Pitulea & Lupu 1978; Lupu &
Lupu 1983; Lupu & Zacher 1996). The common characters
of similar Upper Cretaceous deposits in the Alpine Orogen
are the stratigraphic range (Turonian to end of Cretaceous
or Early Tertiary), sedimentological and facies analogies,
and a similar geodynamic frame in which this basin
evolved. The Gosau successions of the Eastern Alps were in
the focus of a number of geological investigations (Toll-
mann 1976 and references therein; Woletz 1967; Faupl &
Wagreich 1992; Wagreich 1995). These deposits give a
clue to understanding the geodynamic processes during an
important evolutionary period of the Alpine Orogen. Upper
Cretaceous sediments with similar features as the Gosau oc-
currences of the Eastern Alps are also known from the West-
ern Carpathians (Slovakia; Wagreich & Marschalko 1995;
Faupl et al. 1997) and the Transdanubian Range (Hungary;
Siegl-Farkas & Wagreich 1997), where this succession is
known under regional denominations. In the Apuseni Mts
the term Gosau has commonly been adopted by regional
geologists (Lupu 1985; Lupu et al. 1993; Lupu & Zacher
1996). For this reason the name Gosau is used in the present
paper for description of the Upper Cretaceous Gosau-type
successions of the Apuseni Mts.

Generally, the Gosau succession is subdivided on the

basis of its sedimentary facies into the Lower Gosau Sub-

group (terrestrial to shallow marine deposits) and the Up-
per Gosau Subgroup (deep marine, turbiditic environ-
ment). As proposed by Wagreich (1995), subduction
erosion led to sudden subsidence and the creation of ac-
commodation space for the deep-water Upper Gosau Sub-
group. Studies of the assemblages of heavy minerals of the
Gosau successions of the Eastern Alps (Woletz 1967; Fau-
pl & Wagreich 1992) indicate the erosion of an accretion-
ary wedge with ophiolites during the period of the Lower
Gosau Subgroup, which supplied Cr-spinel. The predomi-
nance of metamorphic heavy minerals in the Upper Gosau
Subgroup indicates exhumation and uplift of the Aus-
troalpine crystalline complex in the hinterland.

Similarities of the Gosau successions in the Apuseni

Mts and the Eastern Alps are evident with respect to their
heavy mineral spectra and source areas. This indicates that
similar geotectonic processes prevailed during the Late
Cretaceous in both regions. The aim of this paper is to get
a clue about the source areas and transport directions of
the clastic sediments within the geodynamic framework of
this time and to compare the Gosau successions of the
Eastern Alps with those of the Apuseni Mts.

Geological overview

In a position between the Tertiary Pannonian and Tran-

sylvanian Basins (Fig. 1), the Apuseni Mts formed during
the Cretaceous and Early Tertiary orogenies due to the col-
lision of the two microplates Tisia and Dacia (Sănduelscu

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1984; Csontos et al. 1992; Csontos 1995; Tari et al. 1995;
Linzer et al. 1998). The amalgamated block experienced a
70—90° clockwise rotation in the Miocene (Pătra cu et al.
1994; Panaiotu et al. 1997) followed by eastward drift, which
was caused by retreating subduction (Royden 1993) in the
Carpathian Flysch Ocean (Ceăhlau ocean; Zweigel 1997).

The Apuseni Mts are tectonically divided into the Bihor

Autochthonous Unit (with low- to medium-grade meta-
morphic rocks of the greenschist and garnet-staurolite
zone, Variscan granitic intrusive rocks and a Permo-Meso-
zoic sedimentary cover sequence), the Mesozoic tectonic
complex and Tertiary tectonic complex. The Mesozoic

Fig. 1. Structural map of the Apuseni Mts (after Ianovici et al. 1976; Balintoni 1997). The names of the main Gosau occurrences are
shown in the rectangular frames. The Gosau sediments of the South Apuseni Mts belong to the Tertiary tectonic complex, those of the
North Apuseni Mts belong to the Mesozoic tectonic complex and to the Bihor Autochthonous Unit.

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tectonic complex comprises the nappes of the “Austrian
Transylvanides” and the Apusenides. The “Austrian Tran-
sylvanides” consist of a metamorphic basement, Jurassic
ophiolites, deep-marine sediments and Upper Jurassic to
Lower Cretaceous platform carbonates deformed during
the late Early Cretaceous orogeny. The metamorphic rocks
of the basement deformed under conditions of the green-
schist facies. However, in one outcrop metamorphic rocks
in eclogite facies have been described by Szadetzki
(1930; Fig. 1). The Apusenides are built up by the Biharia
and Codru nappe units with low- to medium-grade meta-
morphic rocks and remnants of nonmetamorphic Permo-
Mesozoic sediments. The Tertiary tectonic complex
(“Laramian Transylvanides” after Balintoni 1997) com-
prises the rocks of the “Austrian Transylvanides” and
Lower to Upper Cretaceous, mainly siliciclastic sediments
including the studied Gosau successions. The Austrian
Transylvanides were thus incorporated in the Early Tertia-
ry orogeny and tectonically overprinted during this event.

Besides a Variscan granite of the Bihor Autochthonous

Unit (Muntele Mare granite), the Late  Cretaceous to Early
Tertiary calc-alkaline magmatism (“banatites”) and the
Neogene, mostly calc-alkaline magmatism form magmatic
suites in the Apuseni Mts.

Lithostratigraphy and facies of the Gosau sediments of

the Apuseni Mts (Fig. 2) are similar to the well studied Go-
sau successions of the Eastern Alps (Tollmann 1976 and
references therein; Lupu 1970; Pitulea & Lupu 1987;
Lupu & Zacher 1996). A subdivision into a Lower and Up-
per Gosau Subgroup has been adopted since in Romanian
literature these deposits are commonly described as Gosau
sediments. However, in Romanian literature only the shal-
low marine succession was described as Gosau sediments,
whereas the deep marine succession was separated. In this
paper, the classification into a Lower and Upper Subgroup
like in the Eastern Alps is made. The shallow marine Low-
er Gosau Subgroup and the deep marine Upper Gosau Sub-
group are known from the Southern and Eastern Apuseni
Mts. The turbiditic Upper Gosau Subgroup, however, is
largely missing in the northern Apuseni Mts, where only
shallow marine sedimentation until latest  Campanian time
is recorded. Moreover, the Gosau sediments of the Apuseni
Mts were deposited from latest Turonian to latest  Maas-
trichtian time. Sedimentation terminated around the Cre-
taceous/Tertiary  boundary (Lupu & Zacher 1996; Schuller
& Frisch 2003). In contrast, the sequences in the Eastern
Alps continue until Eocene times in places.

Sampling and analytical methods

67 samples of coarse- to medium-grained sandstones

have been collected from outcrops along profiles of the
main Gosau occurrences. They were processed by using
standard laboratory techniques (Boenigk 1983). Determi-
nation and counting was performed on the fraction of
100—200 µm in immersion fluid with refractiony indices
of n


= 1.6 and n


= 1.7. A minimum of 100 monominerals

was determined for each sample, except for few samples, in

Fig. 2. Schematic profile of the Upper Cretacous Gosau succession of
the Apuseni Mts. The Lower Gosau Subgroup comprises terrestrial and
shallow marine sediments, locally with thick limestones. The turbidites
of the Upper Gosau Subgroup show a fining-upward trend. A horizon
with debris flows and olistoliths can be traced through all occurrences.
The banatite magmatism is responsible for subvolcanic intrusions
(dikes, sills) and tuff layers. Note: the thicknesses of each subgroup
vary locally; the maximum thickness of the Upper Gosau Subgroup is
unknown, due to postsedimentary basin inversion and erosion.

which only an insufficient number of grains could be sep-
arated (Table 1). Only monominerals are used for statisti-
cal processing, graphical presentation and interpretation.
Furthermore, minerals with either very low portions or low
provenance information (e.g. dolomite, glauconite) are not
included in the graphical presentation.

In order to fix changes in the mineral spectra in the se-

quences with high precision, we tried to cover the complete

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Table 1: Percentages of non-opaque heavy minerals (without layer silicates and lithic fragments).

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stratigraphic succession within each Gosau occurrence.
Minerals with similar stability and provenance information
have been grouped for clearness. Staurolite, epidote and
zoisite form such a group of relatively stable minerals de-
rived from low- to medium-grade metamorphic rocks.
Zircon and tourmaline have been grouped because of
their extreme weathering resistivity and transport stabili-
ty. Although rutile shows the same characteristics, it is
presented separately, because its origin is primarily related
to high-pressure metamorphic rocks. A later redeposition
from sediments, however, cannot be excluded for this
high-resistivity mineral group.


The analysed samples record broad heavy mineral spec-

tra. The dominating minerals are garnet, straurolite, tourma-
line, zircon, apatite and rutile (in this order). Cr-spinel,
chloritoid, glaucophane or allanite are generally rare but of
high interest with respect to their provenance information.

The majority of the mineral assemblages record high per-

centages of minerals derived from metamorphic rocks (gar-
net, staurolite, rutile). In the Upper Gosau Subgroup of the
Drocea, Vidra, Gilău, Hă date and Ro ia occurrences
(Figs. 3, 5; for localization of the occurrences see Fig. 1),
garnet and minerals of the staurolite-epidote-zoisite-group
replace zircon and tourmaline as the predominating miner-
als. This reflects a change from a mainly magmatic to a
mainly metamorphic source. This change is also accompa-
nied by the appearance of rutile. The Sălciua-Ocoli , Gilău,
Hă date and Ro ia occurrences record increased rutile per-
centages in the Upper Gosau Subgroup, which can be ex-
plained by the erosion of high-pressure metamorphic rocks
of the Transylvanides, since high-pressure rocks are only
known from small eclogite outcrops in the Austrian Tran-
sylvanides (Fig. 1; Szadetzki 1930).

The Permo-Mesozoic sedimentary cover is also a possible

source for rutile. Together with tourmaline and zircon, rutile
forms a group of very stable minerals which is often inter-
preted as erosion of sedimentary successions.

Within the zircon—tourmaline group, tourmaline domi-

nates. The source of tourmaline is proposed to be either
the medium-grade metamorphic complexes of the Bihor
Autochthonous and the Codru Unit, but more likely the
Variscan granites and pegmatites (Muntele Mare granite).
We relate the increased amounts of zircon in samples of
the Upper Gosau Subgroup (e.g. M60, Ro ia) to the bana-
tite magmatism, which started around the Campanian/Maas-
trichtian boundary.

Because apatite can be supplied from both magmatic and

metamorphic rocks, this mineral is present in almost every
sample, irrespective of its stratigraphic position. In the lower

Fig. 3. Heavy mineral assemblages of the main Gosau occurrences.
Y-axis shows the sample numbers in stratigraphic order for each
occurrence (youngest on top). Minerals with low frequency or
isolated appearance are displayed as symbols. The grey line be-
tween the sample numbers marks the boundary between the Lower
and Upper Gosau Subgroup.

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part of the sequence the apatite is interpreted to be mainly
derived from the Muntele Mare granite but also from the
metamorphic rocks of the Codru and Biharia Nappes. In
the Upper Gosau Subgroup an important portion of the ap-
atite probably derives from the coeval banatite magma-
tism. The banatite magmatism is probably also indicated
by the appearance of cassiterite and sphalerite in samples
M65 and 41 (Vidra occurrence). The high allanite content
in sample 163 of the Vlădeasa occurrence also reflects the
coeval banatite magmatism. This sample has been taken
from the matrix of a conglomerate layer of the volcano-
sedimentary series of the Vlădeasa succession.

Although present in low amounts only, Cr-spinel proves

a contribution from the ophiolites of the Austrian Transyl-
vanides (Fig. 1), at present exposed in the region to the
south of the Gosau occurrences. This shows that the ophi-
olites were already exposed in Late  Coniacian times (sam-
ple M65, Ro ia: Figs. 3 and 5). Cr-spinel has even been
identified in the Gosau occurrences situated in the north-
ern parts of the Apuseni Mts (Ro ia, Vlădeasa). Consider-
ing the postsedimentary compressional tectonics and
basin inversion, this reflects a transport distance of clearly
more than 100 km within the Gosau basin.

Glaucophane was found in two samples and in low

amounts only. Nevertheless, as a high-pressure/low-tem-
perature metamorphic mineral, it witnesses the exposure of
a subducted complex, which is completely eroded today.
Cr-spinel and glaucophane indicate that ophiolites and a
subduction complex were exposed to the south (in
present-day coordinates) of the Gosau basin. The rutile
could also be derived from subduction complexes.

Chloritoid has been detected in low amounts in some

samples from different stratigraphic horizons. The diffuse

Fig. 4. Qualitative overview of the identified heavy minerals and their assumed provenance. Light grey fields indicate inferred and mi-
nor contributions, dark fields main contributions of the respective rock.

distribution shows erosion of low grade metamorphic
rocks throughout sedimentation of the Gosau succession.

Pyroxene, amphibole and anatase have been found in

very low amounts in a few samples. Because of the low
amount and the broad source rock spectra the provenance
information cannot be constrained. These minerals are
shown for completeness only (Fig. 3).


Most of the heavy minerals from the Gosau sediments

of the Apuseni Mts can be assigned to various rock units
(Fig. 4). Nevertheless an isolation is possible. Low- to
medium-grade metamorphic minerals (primarily garnet,
staurolite, chloritoid, amphibole) were mainly supplied
from the Bihor Autochthonous Unit and the crystalline
rocks of the Biharia and Codru Units. The source for the
high pressure minerals (rutile and glaucophane) were
probably the Transylvanides, since the scarce high-pres-
sure metamorphic rocks are only known from these rock
units. Zircon, tourmaline and apatite were mainly sup-
plied from the banatite magmatism and the Variscan
granites (Muntele Mare granite). Only the Cr-spinel indi-
cates an unambiguous source lithology: the ophiolites of
the Austrian Transylvanides.

Besides the supply of tourmaline and zircon from mag-

matic rocks, and rutile from high-pressure metamorphic
rocks, these three minerals could also have been derived
from the Permo-Mesozoic cover rocks of the Apuseni Mts.

For the interpretation of the heavy mineral assemblag-

es and their variations, a compilation for all studied oc-
currences was made, which considers the stratigraphic
position of the samples within the profile as well as the

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Fig. 5. Main heavy mineral groups of the Gosau occurrences and stratigraphic position of sample points. The grey line marks the bound-
ary between the Lower and Upper Gosau Subgroup. Only minerals with provenance interest are shown, which explains the gaps to 100 %.

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facies change from the Lower to the Upper Gosau Subgroup
(Fig. 5). Onset of sedimentation and the intra-Gosauan fa-
cies change, however, did not occur synchronously.

Although some occurrences record high percentages

of metamorphic minerals in both the Lower and the Up-
per Gosau Subgroup (e.g. Sălciua-Ocoli , Borod), there
is a clear trend towards an increasing importance of
metamorphic minerals towards higher stratigraphic lev-
els. In the Drocea and Vidra profile the change of the
heavy mineral suites from Lower to Upper Gosau Sub-
group is evident. The Borod and Vlădeasa occurrences
do not record Upper Gosau sediments. They are sur-
rounded by the metamorphic rocks of the Bihor Au-
tochthonous Unit, which explains their high percentage
of metamorphic minerals. Metamorphic minerals also
dominate in the entire succession of the Sălciua-Ocoli
occurrence. This is probably due to supply from the Bi-
haria Unit to the north.

The relative increase in the garnet/staurolite/epidote/

zoisite-group in higher stratigraphic levels may also rep-
resent a shift of sources from older sediments to meta-
morphic basement rocks. The sediments were largely
eroded during the early stage of the basin fill.

As already mentioned, the Cr-spinel must have been

supplied from the ophiolitic ultrabasic rocks of the Tran-
sylvanides to the south. This conforms to the occurrence
of radiolarite pebbles in debris flows and olistoliths (Bu-
cur et al. 2004). The radiolarites are also only known from
the Transylvanides.

Paleocurrent measurements

The determination of paleocurrent directions is based

on pebble imbrications, oblique lamination and erosion
marks on the base of Bouma Ta layers in the turbidites of
the Upper Gosau Subgroup. Some of the sole marks do not
indicate the transport direction, for example, groove casts
or badly preserved flute casts. The paleocurrent directions
are shown in present-day coordinates, that block rotations
like the approx. 90° rotation in the Miocene have not
been rotated back (Fig. 6). The paleocurrent data record
transport form different directions for both the Lower and
the Upper Gosau Subgroup.

The dominant flow directions are both from N to NW

and S to SE. This indicates that the elongated Gosau basin

Fig. 6. Directions of paleocurrents of the Gosau sediments of the Apuseni Mts (in present-day coordinates). Bipolar arrows indicate un-
known transport direction. Each arrow represents an average of a dataset with several measurements. The simplified sketch illustrates
the average basin orientation (in present-day coordinates) with range of the main transport directions.

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received detrital material from both flanks during sedi-
mentation of both the Lower and the Upper Gosau Sub-
group. NE-orientated flow in the Câmpeni occurrence
shows local deviation into a direction, which was proba-
bly parallel to the basin axis.

Comparison with the Gosau sediments in the

Eastern Alps

The heavy mineral assemblages of the Gosau sedi-

ments of the Apuseni Mts record a similar dynamic evo-
lution as those of the Eastern Alps. Cr-spinel as a
characteristic mineral in the Lower Gosau Subgroup of
the Eastern Alps (Woletz 1967; Gruber et al. 1991; Fau-
pl & Wagreich 1992) gives evidence for the erosion of
ophiolites from an accretionary wedge to the north of
the Gosau basin. This accretionary wedge formed by
subduction of the South Penninic Ocean along the
northern margin of the Austroalpine mega-unit. In the
Upper Gosau Subgroup, garnet as a metamorphic miner-
al predominates, indicating uplift and exhumation of
the Austroalpine crystalline basement in the south (Faupl
& Wagreich 1992; Wagreich & Faupl 1994).

Fig. 7. Interpretative sketch illustrating the subduction of the Pennin-
ic and Transylvanian Ocean during the Gosau sedimentation period.
a – Geodynamic position of the Gosau depositional area during
Late Cretaceous times. b – Situation of the Apuseni Mts in present-
day coordinates. c – Profile (see line in a) for Late Cretaceous time.

Although the Cr-spinel is not dominating in the heavy

mineral suites of the Apuseni Mts, it indicates erosion of
an obducted ophiolitic complex, probably in the forearc
region (Fig. 7). Erosion of a forearc region is supported by
the appearance of glaucophane as a characteristic mineral
forming in subduction zones. The glaucophane indicates
that an offscraped subduction complex was part of the ac-
cretionary wedge. Glaucophane-bearing rocks are actually
not exposed in the Apuseni Mts, they have completely
been eroded. The obducted ophiolites in contrast, are still
largely exposed in the southern Apuseni Mts (Fig. 1). In
the Eastern Alps remnants of the South Penninic oceanic
crust are known from occurrences in the Tauern Window,
where they have been metamorphosed in Tertiary times,
and from minor exposures along the southern margin of
the Rhenodanubian flysch zone.

Predominance of garnet and other metamorphic miner-

als in the Upper Gosau succession of the Apuseni Mts is in
line with the heavy mineral data from the Eastern Alps. In
both areas it shows exhumation of a metamorphic hinter-
land (Fig. 7). In the Apuseni Mts this hinterland was occu-
pied by the Bihor Autochthonous Unit over large areas.


Heavy mineral assemblages and paleocurrent measure-

ments from the Apuseni Mts give evidence that erosion
and sedimentary transport was both from N to NW and
from S to SE (in present-day coordinates) during the entire
period of the Gosau sedimentation. In our interpretation,
which is in line with the geodynamic situation in the East-
ern Alps, the basin was positioned in the forearc region
above the Transylvanian subduction zone (Penninic sub-
duction zone in the Eastern Alps) and was supplied from
the accretionary wedge on the one side, and from the crys-
talline Bihor hinterland (Austroalpine for the Eastern
Alps) on the other (Fig. 7).

The presented data and interpretation give new insights

concerning the Late Cretaceous geodynamic evolution of
the Alpine-Carpathian orogen. Similarities to the Alpine
Gosau sequences indicate a coherent geodynamic evolu-
tion during the Late Cretaceous, with a basin located on
the northern margin of the Adriatic microplate (including
the Austroalpine unit) and the southward subducting Pen-
ninic Ocean. The change in the heavy mineral spectra in
direction to more metamorphic detritus roughly coincides
with the abrupt and asynchronous basin subsidence at the
start of the Upper Gosau succession. We interpret this in
terms of accelerated incision of the contributing rivers in
the source area into the crystalline basement.


 This work is part of a project financed by

the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). Special thanks
are addressed to our collaborating colleagues from the
Babe -Bolyai University/Cluj-Napoca (Romania), especially
Dr. N. Har, Prof. Dr. I. Bucur and E. Săsaran. Particular thanks
are directed to Prof. I. Bucur and Dr. R. Aubrecht for review-
ing this article as well as helpful suggestions and comments.

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Appendix: Sample location coordinates (UTM/WGS 84).