Geological Occurrences

Ecuador’s most interesting Geological Occurrences

The numerous geological episodes that formed the Ecuadorian segmented Andes and the offshore Galapagos Platform produced a large variety of physiographic units; 4 tectonic territories, 7 geological provinces and over 50 sub-geological provinces.

The impressive geological diversity of Ecuador ranging from ice-capped mountains to humid hot swamps, passing through inner primavera Andean valleys, subtropical and savanna coastal terrains, and the Galapagos Islands make Ecuador recognized as the richest biological country of the world by number of species per square kilometer.

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With this in mind my top 14 most interesting findings are:

1) The first and unique natural laboratory of biological and volcanic evolution in the world is the famous paradisiacal Galapagos Islands. The Alcedo volcano, in the Isabela Island, shows a perfect evolution from acidic to basic lavas, in a short period of time

2) A large variety of volcanoes of different types, ages and evolution can be found in the Andes; on the oceanic crust, over the accreted oceanic crust and over the continental crust.

3) Several compressed rock belts exist in the Cordillera Real, varying from sedimentary to semi metamorphosed to fully metamorphosed.

4) There are limestone caves in the sub-Andes towards the Oriente within the Napo and Santiago Limestone Formations. The most famous is the Cave of Tayos, found in the Santiago Formation (southern Oriente). It is the largest and the deepest limestone cave of Ecuador, which originated worldwide surrealist publications, among them: The Gold of the Gods, and Tayos Gold: The Archives of Atlantis.

5) The Paleo beaches (ridges of sand beaches abandoned inside of the continent), like those found at the peninsula of Cojimies, the high marine terraces (“Tablazos”), like those existing east of Manta or at the Santa Elena Peninsula and the hanging valleys found elsewhere at the coastal cliffs, are all consequences of intermittent continental uplifts and retreating oceanic waters. These landforms are due to the push of the present oceanic crust of the Carniege Ridge (Carniege fist) against the Ecuadorian continent.

6) The magnificent glaciated mountains have been preserved since the Pleistocene and the singular associated Cangahua Formation is exposed from the Colombian border to near Alausi in the south.

7) Evidence of mass animal and plant life extinction are found at different geological time periods; Maastrictian, Late Miocene, Late Pliocene, Middle and Upper Pleistocene.

8) In the Western Andes lie marine Tertiary deposits, placed over 3000 meters high, which prove that the Western Cordillera emerged from the ocean. These deposits are standing close to present active volcanoes of the Cordillera. Here we find fossiliferrous Apagua Shale and a beautiful reef limestone (Unacota Limestone) that is at risk of being sacrificed for industrial purposes. There are also ex-marine salt lakes in Salinas, Province of Bolívar, and another Salinas, Province of Imbabura, from which cooking salt was manually extracted from colonial time until the 1960s.

9) At latitude zero on the Cordillera Real is located Cayambe, the largest ice capped volcano of the Andes, gleaming extraordinarily with the ecuatorial sun.

10) In the central part of the Cordillera Real is located Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world, perfectly cone shaped, permanently snow capped and with excellent accessibility.

11) In the LLanganates Mountain, in the Cordillera Real, we find a sub-horizontal fold of Paleozoic metasedimentary rocks with microfossils in a nappe structure (book cover picture).

12) Mystic Pleistocene lakes of Ozogoche and Cuvilin southeast of Riobamba, located at the summit of the Cordillera Real, where white curtains of mist from the Pacific and the pouring humidity of the Atlantic jungle join; forming a natural stage for the Cuvivíes suicidal ritual and the Curiquingue courtship dance.

13) One of the important east-west limits is the Cañar Cross at approximately 2° 30’ that separates the Andes in two geological provinces, the north with Quaternary volcanoes and the south with the absence of these volcanoes.

14) In the southern Andes geological province we find marine deposits of Tertiary age within the inter mountain basins. Since the time that this area of the continent was definitely abandoned by the ocean, evolution has been taking place separately in each basin (ex-marine lakes), as initially disconnected units. This situation is similar to what occurs in Galapagos, where evolution is taking place on each Island. This geological Province is a sort of continental Galapagos.