News Release

New GSA Bulletin articles published ahead of print in September

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Geological Society of America

Boulder, Colo., USA: The Geological Society of America regularly publishes articles online ahead of print. GSA Bulletin topics include the nature and dynamics of China and Tibet; the Yellowstone hotspot; magma mushes; the Barberton Greenstone Belt; juvenile hafnium; the nature and origin of cratons constrained by their surface geology; and the push-pull of Pelagonia. You can find these articles at


Variscan intracrustal recycling by melting of Carboniferous arc-like igneous protoliths (Évora Massif, Iberian Variscan belt)
Carmen Rodríguez; Manuel Francisco Pereira; Antonio Castro; Gabriel Gutiérrez-Alonso; Carlos Fernández
Abstract: Bulk rock geochemistry and sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe zircon geochronology of igneous and metaigneous rocks of the Évora gneiss dome, located to the north of the reworked Rheic Ocean suture zone in the southwest Iberian Variscan belt, reveal a succession of magmatic and melting events lasting ∼30 m.y. between ca. 341−314 Ma. The study of detailed field relationships of orthomigmatites (i.e., migmatites from igneous protoliths) and host granitic rocks proved to be crucial to reconstruct the complex sequence of tectono-thermal events of the Évora gneiss dome. The older igneous protoliths, with marked geochemical arc-like signatures, are represented by 338 ± 3 Ma tonalites and 336 ± 3 Ma diorites. These tonalites and diorites appear as mesosomes of igneous orthomigmatites containing new melts (leucosomes) of monzogranite composition and silica-poor trondhjemites formed in a melting episode at 329 ± 4/6 to 327 ± 3 Ma. The absence of peritectic phases (e.g., pyroxene), together with shearing associated with migmatization, imply the existence of water-rich fluids during melting of the older igneous rocks of the Évora gneiss dome. This melting event is coeval with the second magmatic event of the Évora gneiss dome represented by the neighboring Pavia pluton. A porphyritic monzogranite dated at 314 ± 4 Ma defines a later magmatic event. The porphyritic monzogranite encloses large blocks of the orthomigmatites and contains magmatic mafic enclaves (autoliths) dated at 337 ± 4 Ma that are ∼23 m.y. older than the host rock. All studied rocks of the Évora gneiss dome show arc-like, calc-alkaline geochemical signatures. Our results support recycling of intermediate-mafic plutonic rocks, representing the root of an early magmatic arc that formed at the time of Gondwana-Laurussia convergence (after the closure of the Rheic Ocean) and coeval subduction of the Paleotethys. A geodynamic model involving ridge subduction is proposed to explain the Early Carboniferous intra-orogenic crustal extension, dome formation, exhumation of high-grade rocks, compositional variations of magmatism and formation of new granitic magmatism in which, arc-like signatures were inherited from the crustal source.
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Fluid inclusion evidence for the magmatic-hydrothermal evolution of closely linked porphyry Au, porphyry Mo, and barren systems, East Qinling, China
Li Tang; Thomas Wagner; Tobias Fusswinkel; Shou-Ting Zhang; Xin-Kai Hu ...
Abstract: The Xiong’ershan district in central China hosts broadly coeval porphyry Au (Qiyugou deposit), porphyry Mo (Leimengou deposit), and barren (Huashan pluton) systems. The key controls on the ore potential and different mineralization styles in these systems are not well understood, with first-order differences in fluid chemistry and melt sources being the main alternatives. The fluid inclusion characteristics of all three porphyry systems have been studied using an integrated approach that combines field geology, petrography, microthermometry, and laser ablation−inductively coupled plasma−mass spectrometry analysis of single fluid inclusions. The results permit a reconstruction of the magmatic-hydrothermal evolution of the ore-forming fluids, and to elucidate whether specialized hydrothermal fluids strongly enriched in ore metals (i.e., Mo, Au, Cu) were essential to form the economically significant deposits. The fluid compositions across the three hydrothermal stages from the Qiyugou Au deposit remain approximately the same over time, suggesting that progressive magma fractionation, fluid-rock reaction along fluid path, and mineral precipitation had a limited effect on fluid composition. The syn-ore stage fluids of the Leimengou Mo deposit are characterized by higher Cs/Na, Sr/Na, and B/Na, but lower K/Na and Cl/Na ratios, and also have salinities and homogenization temperatures distinct from the earlier fluids. This demonstrates that Mo mineralization was caused by a second pulse of fluid input from a highly fractionated felsic magma subsequent to the pre-ore stage. At the Huashan barren pluton, fluids from phase II have higher Cs/Na, B/Na, Li/Na, and Rb/Na ratios with lower homogenization temperatures than fluids occurring in porphyritic rocks of phase III, reflecting a higher degree of magma fractionation of this plutonic complex. The Huashan pluton does not host economic mineralization which is likely caused by the low ore metal tenor, inefficient fluid extraction from the melt, or the flat-roof geometry preventing accumulation of a large volume of fluid in the apical part. The Au tenor of the Qiyugou deposit was most likely contributed by mantle-derived material of higher Mg/Na, Fe/Na, Pb/Na, and Zn/Na ratios. Taken together, the metal charged magmatic-hydrothermal fluids, steeply dipping geometry, and small volume of the porphyry stocks all suggest that a much larger magma chamber feeding the porphyry systems should be present at deeper levels with good potential for Mo mineralization below the current level of exposure at Qiyugou deposit.
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Paleogeographic position of the central Dodecanese Islands, southeastern Greece: The push-pull of Pelagonia
B. Grasemann; D.A. Schneider; K. Soukis; V. Roche; B. Hubmann
Abstract: The paleogeographic position of the central Dodecanese Islands at the transition between the Aegean and Anatolian plates plays a considerable role in understanding the link between both geologically unique domains. In this study, we investigate the tectonic history of the central Dodecanese Islands and the general correlation with the Aegean and western Anatolian and focus on the poorly studied islands of Kalymnos and Telendos. Three different major tectonic units were mapped on both islands from bottom to top: (1) The Kefala Unit consists of late Paleozoic, fossil-rich limestones, which have been deformed into a SE-vergent fold-and-thrust belt sealed by an up to 200-m-thick wildflysch-type olistostrome with marble and ultramafic blocks on a scale of tens of meters. (2) The Marina Basement Unit consists of a Variscan amphibolite facies basement with garnet mica schists, quartzites, and amphibolites. (3) Verrucano-type formation violet shales and Mesozoic unmetamorphosed limestones form the Marina Cover Unit. Correlation of these units with other units in the Aegean suggests that Kalymnos is paleogeographically located at the southern margin of the Pelagonian domain, and therefore it was in a structurally upper tectonic position during the Paleogene Alpine orogeny. New white mica 40Ar/39Ar ages confirm the Carboniferous deformation of the Marina Basement Unit followed by a weak Triassic thermal event. Single-grain white mica 40Ar/39Ar ages from pressure solution cleavage of the newly defined Telendos Thrust suggest that the Marina Basement Unit was thrusted toward the north on top of the Kefala Unit in the Paleocene. Located at a tectonically upper position, the units exposed in the central Dodecanese escaped subduction and the syn-orogenic, high-pressure metamorphism. However, these units were affected by post-orogenic extension, and the contact between the Marina Basement Unit and the non-metamorphic Marina Cover Unit has been reactivated by the cataclastic top-to-SSW, low-angle Kalymnos Detachment. Zircon (U-Th)/He ages from the Kefala and Marina Basement Units are ca. 30 Ma, which indicates that exhumation and cooling below the Kalymnos Detachment started in the Oligocene. Conjugate brittle high-angle normal fault systems, which resulted in the formation of four major WNW-ESE−trending graben systems on Kalymnos, localized mainly in the Marina Cover Unit and probably rooted in the mechanically linked Kalymnos Detachment. Since Oligo-Miocene deformation in the northern Dodecanese records top-to-NNE extension and the Kalymnos Detachment accommodated top-to-SSW extension, we suggest that back-arc extension in the whole Aegean realm and transition to the Anatolian plate is bivergent.
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Stratigraphy around the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary in sediment cores from the Lord Howe Rise, Southwest Pacific
Junichiro Kuroda; Kyoko Hagino; Yoichi Usui; Paul R. Bown; Kan-Hsi Hsiung ...
Abstract: During Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) Leg 21, Cenozoic and latest Cretaceous sediments were recovered at Site 208 on the Lord Howe Rise, Southwest Pacific. We provide new biostratigraphic, magnetostratigraphic and chemostratigraphic data from Site 208 to constrain the stratigraphy around the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary and to determine the depth of the K-Pg boundary more precisely. Biostratigraphic data from calcareous nannofossils indicate a near-continuous succession of sediments from the mid-Maastrichtian (Late Cretaceous) to lowermost Thanetian (Paleocene) at depths of 540−590 m below seafloor (mbsf). The biostratigraphic data suggest that the K-Pg boundary corresponds to a siliceous claystone at the base of an interval of silicified sediments (576.0−576.8 mbsf). Carbonate carbon isotopic composition (δ13Ccarb) reveals a negative shift across this interval, which is consistent with global patterns of δ13C across the K-Pg boundary. Osmium concentration and Os isotopic composition (187Os/188Os) can also be used to identify the K-Pg boundary interval, as it is marked by a peak in Os concentration and a drop in 187Os/188Os values to 0.12−0.15, both of which are the result of the Chicxulub impact event. Our 187Os/188Os data show trends similar to those of coeval global seawater with the lowest value of 0.12−0.16 in the siliceous claystone (576.8 mbsf). However, the concentration of Os is low (<80 pg g−1) in this sample, which suggests that this siliceous claystone was deposited around the K-Pg boundary but may not include the boundary itself. Although the sedimentary record across the K-Pg interval at Site 208 may not be completely continuous, it nevertheless captures a time interval that is close to the Chicxulub impact event.
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Metallogenic fingerprint of a metasomatized lithospheric mantle feeding gold endowment in the western Mediterranean basin
Erwin Schettino; Claudio Marchesi; José María González-Jiménez; Edward Saunders; Károly Hidas ...
Abstract: Spinel peridotite xenoliths (one plagioclase-bearing) hosted in alkaline basalts from Tallante (southeast Spain) record the mineralogical and geochemical fingerprint of the subcontinental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) evolution beneath the southern Iberian margin. Mantle metasomatism in fertile lherzolites caused the crystallization of clinopyroxene + orthopyroxene + spinel clusters through the percolation of Miocene subalkaline melts during the westward migration of the subduction front in the western Mediterranean. In the Pliocene, heat and volatiles provided by alkaline host-magmas triggered very low melting degrees of metasomatic pyroxene-spinel assemblages, producing melt quenched to silicate glass and reactive spongy coronae around clinopyroxene and spinel. Refertilization of the Tallante peridotites induced the precipitation of base-metal sulfides (BMS) included in metasomatic clino- and orthopyroxene. These sulfides consist of pentlandite ± chalcopyrite ± bornite aggregates with homogeneous composition in terms of major elements (Ni, Fe, Cu) and semi-metals (Se, As, Te, Sb, Bi), but with wide variability of platinum-group elements (PGE) fractionation (0.14 < PdN/IrN < 30.74). Heterogeneous PGE signatures, as well as the presence of euhedral Pt-Pd-Sn-rich platinum-group minerals (PGM) and/or Au-particles within BMS, cannot be explained by conventional models of chalcophile partitioning from sulfide melt. Alternatively, we suggest that they reflect the incorporation of distinct populations of BMS, PGM, and metal nanoparticles (especially of Pt, Pd, and Au) during mantle melting and/or melt percolation. Therefore, we conclude that Miocene subalkaline melts released by asthenosphere upwelling upon slab tearing of the Iberian continental margin effectively stored metals in metasomatized domains of this sector of the SCLM. Remarkably high Au concentrations in Tallante BMS (median 1.78 ppm) support that these metasomatized domains provided a fertile source of metals, especially gold, for the ore-productive Miocene magmatism of the westernmost Mediterranean.
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The nature and origin of cratons constrained by their surface geology
A.M. Celal Şengör; Nalan Lom; Ali Polat
Abstract: To the memory of Nicholas John (Nick) Archibald (1951−2014), master of cratonic geology. Cratons, defined by their resistance to deformation, are guardians of crustal and lithospheric material over billion-year time scales. Archean and Proterozoic rocks can be found in many places on earth, but not all of them represent cratonic areas. Some of these old terrains, inappropriately termed “cratons” by some, have been parts of mobile belts and have experienced widespread deformations in response to mantle-plume-generated thermal weakening, uplift and consequent extension and/or various plate boundary deformations well into the Phanerozoic. It is a common misconception that cratons consist only of metamorphosed crystalline rocks at their surface, as shown by the indiscriminate designation of them by many as “shields.” Our compilation shows that this conviction is not completely true. Some recent models argue that craton formation results from crustal thickening caused by shortening and subsequent removal of the upper crust by erosion. This process would expose a high-grade metamorphic crust at the surface, but greenschist-grade metamorphic rocks and even unmetamorphosed supracrustal sedimentary rocks are widespread on some cratonic surfaces today, showing that craton formation does not require total removal of the upper crust. Instead, the granulitization of the roots of arcs may have been responsible for weighing down the collided and thickened pieces and keeping their top surfaces usually near sea level. In this study, we review the nature and origin of cratons on four well-studied examples. The Superior Province (the Canadian Shield), the Barberton Mountain (Kaapvaal province, South Africa), and the Yilgarn province (Western Australia) show the diversity of rocks with different origin and metamorphic degree at their surface. These fairly extensive examples are chosen because they are typical. It would have been impractical to review the entire extant cratonic surfaces on earth today. We chose the inappropriately named North China “Craton” to discuss the requirements to be classified as a craton.
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Crustal deformation and exhumation within the India-Eurasia oblique convergence zone: New insights from the Ailao Shan-Red River shear zone
B. Zhang; S.Y. Chen; Y. Wang; P.W. Reiners; F.L. Cai ...
Abstract: During the collision of India and Eurasia, regional-scale strike-slip shear zones played a key role in accommodating lateral extrusion of blocks, block rotation, and vertical exhumation of metamorphic rocks as presented by deformation on the Ailao Shan-Red River shear zone (ARSZ) in the Eastern Himalayan Syntaxis region and western Yunnan, China. We report structural, mica Ar/Ar, apatite fission-track (AFT), and apatite (U-Th)/He (AHe) data from the Diancangshan massif in the middle segment of the ARSZ. These structural data reveal that the massif forms a region-scale antiform, bordered by two branches of the ARSZ along its eastern and western margins. Structural evidence for partial melting in the horizontal mylonites in the gneiss core document that the gneiss experienced a horizontal shear deformation in the middle crust. Muscovite Ar/Ar ages of 36−29 Ma from the core represent cooling ages. Muscovite Ar/Ar ages of 25 and 17 Ma from greenschist-facies mylonites along the western and southern shear zones, respectively, are interpreted as recording deformation in the ARSZ. The AFT ages, ranging from 15 to 5 Ma, represent a quiescent gap with a slow cooling/exhumation in the massif. AHe results suggest that a rapid cooling and final exhumation episode of the massif could have started before 3.2 Ma, or likely ca. 5 Ma, and continue to the present. The high-temperature horizontal shearing layers of the core were first formed across the Indochina Block, locally antiformed along the tectonic boundaries, and then cooled through the mica Ar-Ar closure temperature during Eocene or early Oligocene, subsequently reworked and further exhumed by sinistral strike-slip movement along the ARSZ during the early Oligocene (ca. 29 Ma), lasting until ca. 17 Ma, then final exhumation of the massif occurred by dextral normal faulting on the Weixi-Qiaohou and Red River faults along the limbs of the ARSZ since ca. 5 Ma. The formation of the antiform could indicate local crustal thickening in an early transpressional setting corresponding to India-Asia convergence. Large-scale sinistral ductile shear along the ARSZ in the shallow crust accommodated lateral extrusion of the Indochina Block, and further contributed to the vertical exhumation of the metamorphic massif from the late Oligocene to the middle Miocene. Furthermore, the change of kinematic reversal and associated cooling episodes along the ARSZ since the middle Miocene or early Pliocene imply a tectonic transfer from strain localization along the major tectonic boundaries to continuous deformation corresponding to plateau growth and expansion.
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Carbon and nitrogen isotope evidence for widespread presence of anoxic intermediate waters before and during the Permian-Triassic mass extinction
Baojin Wu; Genming Luo; Michael M. Joachimski; Paul B. Wignall; Lidan Lei ...
Abstract: The largest mass extinction since the advent of animals occurred during the Permian-Triassic (P-Tr) transition, ca. 252 Ma, and is commonly attributed to the eruption of the Siberian Traps large igneous province. However, the direct killing mechanism is still debated. In this study, we investigated marine redox conditions of the intermediate water column that most organisms inhabit with special attention to the time interval before the onset of the mass extinction. The carbon isotope composition of carbonate and organic carbon (δ13Ccarb and δ13Corg) as well as the nitrogen isotope composition of bulk nitrogen (δ15N) were analyzed in four P-Tr boundary sequences (Zhongli, Jianshi, Ganxi, and Chaotian sections), which record a transect from a shallow water carbonate platform to a deep water, lower ramp slope in South China. δ13Ccarb shows a distinct negative shift in all sections and displays a clear, 2−4‰, decreasing gradient accompanying an increase in water depth both before and after the mass extinction. A distinct negative shift in δ15N is observed in the shallow water Zhongli section, whereas a minor negative shift is present in the three deeper water sections. Before the mass extinction, the δ15N values from shallow water sections are higher than those from deeper waters. The low δ15N values close to 0‰ in deeper water sections suggest that microbial nitrogen fixation was the predominant source of biologically available nitrogen before the onset of the mass extinction. Thus, the water depth- dependent gradient in δ13Ccarb and δ15N suggests that an oxygen-deficient intermediate water column was already present before the mass extinction. The uniform δ15N values around 0‰ accompanying the onset of the mass extinction reveal that anoxic intermediate waters expanded into shallow waters. Meanwhile, the distinct positive shift in δ13Corg observed in upper ramp slope sections, i.e., the Jianshi and Ganxi sections, suggests that a euxinic photic zone was at least episodically present in the earliest Triassic. The temporal coincidence between the expansion of intermediate water column anoxia and the onset of the P-Tr mass extinction supports the hypothesis that marine anoxia was a direct killing mechanism.
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The Middle-Late Cretaceous Zagros ophiolites, Iran: Linking of a 3000 km swath of subduction initiation fore-arc lithosphere from Troodos, Cyprus to Oman
H.S. Moghadam; Q.L. Li; W.L. Griffin; M. Chiaradia; K. Hoernle ...
Abstract: New trace-element, radiogenic Sr-Nd-Pb isotopic and geochronological data from Middle-Late Cretaceous Zagros ophiolites of Iran give new insights into the tectono-magmatic history of these supra-subduction zone (SSZ)-type ophiolites. The distribution of Middle-Late Cretaceous SSZ-type ophiolites in Iran comprises two parallel belts: (1) the outer Zagros ophiolitic belt and (2) the inner Zagros ophiolitic belt. These Middle-Late Cretaceous ophiolites were generated by seafloor spreading in what became the fore-arc and back-arc during the subduction initiation event and now define a ∼3000-km-long belt from Cyprus to Turkey, Syria, Iran, the UAE, and Oman. The Zagros ophiolites contain complete (if disrupted) mantle and crustal sequences. Mantle sequences from both outer-belt and inner-belt ophiolites are dominated by dunites, harzburgites, and lherzolites with minor chromitite lenses. Peridotites are also intruded by gabbros and a variety of mafic to minor felsic (plagiogranite and dacite) dikes. Crustal rocks comprise ultramafic-mafic cumulates as well as isotropic gabbros, sheeted dike complexes, pillowed and massive lavas, and felsic rocks. Our new zircon U-Pb ages indicate that the outer-belt and inner-belt ophiolites formed near coevally during the Middle-Late Cretaceous; 100−96 Ma for the outer belt and 105−94 Ma for the inner belt. Both incompatible-element ratios and isotopic data confirm that depleted mantle and variable contributions of subduction components were involved in the genesis of outer-belt and inner-belt rocks. Our data for the outer belt and inner belt along with those from better-studied ophiolites in Cyprus, Turkey, the UAE, and Oman lead to the conclusion that a broad, ∼3000-km-long swath of fore-arc lithosphere was created during Middle-Late Cretaceous time.
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Juvenile hafnium isotopic compositions recording a late Carboniferous−Early Triassic retreating subduction in the southern Central Asian Orogenic Belt: A case study from the southern Alxa
Rongguo Zheng; Jinyi Li; Jin Zhang
Abstract: Two successive and parallel magmatic arcs within the southern Alxa provide an ideal area to examine the influence of tectonic switching on temporal and spatial distribution of magmatism within accretionary orogens. This study presents new geochronological and geochemical data for Yingen and Quagu plutons from the southern Alxa, located in the southern Central Asian Orogenic Belt. Late Permian Yingen granitic dikes (ca. 252 Ma) have depleted whole-rock Nd isotopic compositions, high Sr, low Y and Yb, and high Sr/Y ratios, all of which indicate they were generated by the partial melting of subducted young/hot oceanic slab. The Middle Permian (271 Ma) Yingen hosting granites contain elevated contents of Nb and Zr, and have high 10,000 × Ga/Al ratios, suggesting that they resulted from mixing between Neoproterozoic crust-derived felsic magmas and depleted mantle-derived mafic magmas. The Quagu pluton yields ca. 271−262 Ma zircon U-Pb ages and has an adakitic high-Mg diorite-like geochemical composition, suggesting that it originated from interaction between slab-derived melts and overlying peridotite material. Collectively, these data record the subduction of the Enger Us oceanic slab beneath Mesoproterozoic−Neoproterozoic sialic crust, generating a Japan-type arc within the southern Alxa during Middle−Late Permian. Temporal-spatial variations of zircon Hf isotope for plutons suggest tectonic switching from advancing to retreating subduction during Carboniferous−Early Triassic within the southern Alxa. An advancing subduction resulted from the subduction of the Paleo-Asian Ocean, and a retreating subduction was related to plate boundary reorganization during the assembly of Pangea.
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Coupled magmatic and host rock processes during the initiation of the Tuolumne Intrusive Complex, Sierra Nevada, California, USA: A transition from ephemeral sheets to long-lived, active magma mushes
Valbone Memeti; Scott R. Paterson; Roland Mundil
Abstract: The initiation of pluton formation is rarely preserved as the rock record is typically overprinted by younger intruding pulses. An exception is the 80 km2 Kuna Crest lobe, which marks the initiation of the 95−85 Ma, 1100 km2 Tuolumne Intrusive Complex in the Sierra Nevada, California, USA. We present a detailed map of the lithologies and structure of the Kuna Crest lobe, associated sheeted complex and satellite plutons, and their host rocks, using chemical abrasion−isotope dilution−thermal ionization mass spectrometry and laser ablation−inductively coupled plasma−mass spectrometry U-Pb zircon geochronology, element and isotope geochemistry, and Al-in-hornblende thermobarometry to conclude the following: (a) The 94.91 ± 0.53 Ma to 92.75 ± 0.11 Ma Kuna Crest lobe and its marginal sheeted complex preserved the oldest intrusive pulses and most mantle-like compositions of the entire Tuolumne Intrusive Complex. (b) Emplacement began with magma wedging of low volume magma pulses resulting in a sheeted complex that is compositionally heterogeneous at outcrop scales, but isotopically homogeneous. (c) These early magmas established a pre-heated pathway within just a few hundreds of thousands of years that gave way to the formation of the ∼1.5 million-year-long active, compositionally more homogeneous but isotopically more heterogeneous magma mush across the Kuna Crest lobe. The host rocks and previously intruded magma were displaced largely vertically through downward flow. (d) The melt-interconnected mush zone in the lobe allowed for magma mixing and crystal-liquid separation at the emplacement level. We interpret this lobe to represent an upper- to mid-crustal, vertical magma transfer zone that likely fed shallower plutons and potentially volcanic eruptions. We propose a filter pressing mechanism driven by vertical magma transport through the lobe resulting in margin-parallel fabrics, plagioclase-rich crystal cumulates, inward draining and upward loss (of up to 40%) of interstitial melts. Some inward drained melts hybridized with later intruding Half Dome magmas at the transition to the main Tuolumne Intrusive Complex. Some of the lobe magmas, including fractionated melts, drained laterally into the strain shadow of the lobe to form the satellite plutons, further contributing to cumulate formation in the lobe. This study documents that within only a few hundreds of thousands of years, arc magma plumbing systems are capable of establishing a focused magma pathway to build up to increasingly larger magma bodies that are capable of undergoing magma differentiation and feeding shallower plutons and volcanic eruptions.
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Progressive accretion recorded in sedimentary rocks of the 3.28−3.23 Ga Fig Tree Group, Barberton Greenstone Belt
Nadja Drabon; Donald R. Lowe
Abstract: One of the major challenges in early Earth geology is the interpretation of the nature of the crust and tectonic processes due to the limited exposures of Archean rocks. This question is predominantly addressed by numerical modeling, structural geology, geochemical analyses, and petrological approaches. Here we report on the reconstruction of one of the oldest, well-preserved volcano-sedimentary sequences on Earth, the 3.28−3.22 Ga Fig Tree Group in the Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa, based on geochronology, provenance, and stratigraphy to provide new constraints on the nature of tectonic processes in the Archean. The Fig Tree basin was asymmetric and the onset of deposition varied across the greenstone belt. The Fig Tree Group is now preserved in east-west oriented bands of fault-bounded structural belts with those preserved in the southern parts of the greenstone belt showing an onset of deposition at 3.28 Ga, those in the center at 3.26 Ga, and those in the north at 3.24 Ga. Stratigraphically, the rocks display a general up-section trend from deeper to shallower-water deposition and/or from finer- to coarser-grained sedimentary rocks. Associated with this up-section stratigraphic trend, the sedimentary rocks show a change in provenance from more regionally similar to more locally variable, and an increase in felsic volcanic activity, especially toward the closure of Fig Tree deposition. The data is consistent with formation of the Fig Tree Group in a compressional tectonic setting by deposition in a foreland basin that experienced progressive accretion of crustal terranes onto a northward prograding fold-and-thrust belt.
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From subduction initiation to hot subduction: Life of a Neoarchean subduction zone from the Dengfeng Greenstone Belt, North China Craton
Hao Deng; Ning Jia; Timothy Kusky; Ali Polat; Guanglei Peng ...
Abstract: We report a spatially and temporally linked arc magmatic association of 2.55−2.50 Ga mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB)-affinity gabbros, arc-affinity basalts, high-Mg basalts/basaltic andesites (HMBA), Nb-enriched basalts (NEB), and a tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG)-like granodiorite from the Dengfeng greenstone belt (DFGB), North China Craton. These are identical to arc magmatic rock suites from hot subduction in the present plate mosaic, and resemble suites formed during subduction initiation. Laser ablation−inductively coupled plasma−mass spectrometry zircon U-Pb dating indicates that gabbros and granodiorites intruded at ca. 2.55 Ga and the HMBAs formed at ca. 2.50 Ga, indicating a long duration of subduction zone magmatic activity of at least 50 m.y. in the DFGB. The gabbros are characterized by flat light-rare earth element (LREE) patterns without negative Nb and Zr anomalies, showing a MORB-like geochemical affinity. Combined with previously reported normal-MORB-type basalts, we suggest that they may represent magmatic products during intraoceanic subduction initiation where their mantle source was slightly metasomatized by subduction-derived fluids during the initiation stage. The arc-affinity basalts are characterized by slightly enriched LREE patterns with negative Nb and Zr anomalies. The HMBAs have higher contents of MgO, Ni, and Cr and display more fractionated rare earth element (REE) patterns and large negative Nb and Zr anomalies than the arc-affinity basalts. The NEBs are characterized by high absolute contents of Nb (9.9−14 ppm) and high ratios of Nb/Laprimitive mantle (pm) (0.40−0.46) and Nb/Thpm (0.44−0.54), and moderately fractionated REE and minor negative Nb anomalies with no Zr anomalies. One granodiorite sample is characterized by a highly fractionated REE pattern and negative Nb and Zr anomalies. Geochemical modeling suggests that the association of the normal arc-affinity basalt (NAB)-HMBA-NEB can be interpreted to be generated by hybridization of mantle wedge peridotites by slab-derived TTG-like melts. Positive values of whole-rock εNd (t) and zircon εHf (t) of the 2.55−2.50 Ga magmatic associations are consistent with a long-term depleted mantle source for the mafic assemblage. The 2.55−2.50 Ga magmatic association from MORB-affinity gabbros and basalts to arc-affinity NAB-HMBA-NEB may record a continuous Neoarchean geodynamic process from intraoceanic subduction initiation to mature arc magmatism. The NAB-HMBA-NEB association with regional sanukitoids and high-Al TTGs indicates that hot subduction may have played an important role in the production of arc-related magmatism during the Archean.
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Building a continental arc section: Constraints from Paleozoic granulite-facies metamorphism, anatexis, and magmatism in the northern margin of the Qilian Block, northern Tibet Plateau
Yinbiao Peng; Shengyao Yu; Jianxin Zhang; Yunshuai Li; Sanzhong Li ...
Abstract: Continental arcs in active continental margins (especially deep-seated arc magmatism, anatexis, and metamorphism) can be extremely significant in evaluating continent building processes. In this contribution, a Paleozoic continental arc section is constructed based on coeval granulite-facies metamorphism, anatexis, and magmatism on the northern margin of the Qilian Block, which record two significant episodes of continental crust growth. The deeper layer of the lower crust mainly consists of medium-high pressure mafic and felsic granulites, with apparent peak pressure-temperature conditions of 11−13 kbar and 800−950 °C, corresponding to crustal depths of ∼35−45 km. The high-pressure mafic granulite and local garnet-cumulate represent mafic residues via dehydration melting involving breakdown of amphibole with anatectic garnet growth. Zircon U-Pb geochronology indicates that these high-grade metamorphic rocks experienced peak granulite-facies metamorphism at ca. 450 Ma. In the upper layer of the lower crust, the most abundant rocks are preexisting garnet-bearing metasedimentary rocks, orthogneiss, and local garnet amphibolite, which experienced medium-pressure amphibolite-facies to granulite-facies metamorphism at depths of 20−30 km at ca. 450 Ma. These metasedimentary rocks and orthogneiss have also experienced partial melting involving mica and rare amphibole at 457−453 Ma. The shallow to mid-crust is primarily composed of diorite-granodiorite batholiths and volcanic cover with multiple origin, which were intruded during 500−450 Ma, recording long-term crustal growth and differentiation episode. As a whole, two episodes of continental crust growth were depicted in the continental arc section on the northern margin of the Qilian Block, including: (a) the first episode is documented in a lithological assemblage composing of coeval mafic-intermediate intrusive and volcanic rocks derived from partial melting of modified lithospheric mantle and subducted oceanic crust during southward subduction of the North Qilian Ocean at 500−480 Ma; (b) the second episode is recorded in mafic rocks derived from partial melting of modified lithospheric mantle during transition from oceanic subduction to initial collision at 460−450 Ma.
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Clay templates in Ediacaran vendotaeniaceans: Implications for the taphonomy of carbonaceous fossils
B. Becker-Kerber; A. Abd Elmola; A. Zhuravlev; C. Gaucher; M.G. Simões ...
Abstract: Although rare, sedimentary deposits containing exceptionally preserved fossils (i.e., Lagerstätten) have shaped our view on the history of life at particular intervals, such as those recording the Cambrian radiation of animals. Therefore, understanding the processes that lead to the fossilization of unmineralized tissues is crucial to better interpret these fossil assemblages. A key issue on the fossilization of exceptionally preserved fossils is linked to the role of clay minerals in the high-fidelity preservation of recalcitrant and soft tissues. Here, we show for the first time, an association of unusual fibrous clays with carbonaceous fossils (Vendotaenia) in the late Ediacaran Tamengo Formation (Mato Grosso do Sul State, western Brazil). The vendotaeniaceans occur in laminated mudstones/siltstones interpreted as being deposited in outer to distal mid-ramp depositionary settings. The fossils are characterized by ribbon-shaped compressions 0.56 mm in mean width. The fibrous clays are obliquely oriented with respect to the bedding plane, and follow the orientation of tectonically deformed structures. Our mineralogical, geochemical, and petrographic data demonstrate that these clays are mainly composed of chlorite-smectite mixed layered minerals, with >50% chlorite. Altogether, our results suggest that these fibrous minerals formed in the late-diagenetic zone to lower anchizone, reinforcing the previous idea that clay minerals associated with fossils are not necessarily related to the preservation of soft tissues. Instead, the initial preservative pathway in our fossils was probably restricted to organic matter conservation in reducing fine-grained sediments, similar to other deposits with carbonaceous fossils. This newly established mechanism, which involves the formation of clays on organic templates in the late-diagenetic zone, is likely a more widespread phenomenon than previously thought.
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Patterns of incision and deformation on the southern flank of the Yellowstone hotspot from terraces and topography
Daphnee Tuzlak; Joel Pederson; Aaron Bufe; Tammy Rittenour
Abstract: Understanding the dynamics of the greater Yellowstone region requires constraints on deformation spanning million year to decadal timescales, but intermediate-scale (Quaternary) records of erosion and deformation are lacking. The Upper Snake River drainage crosses from the uplifting region that encompasses the Yellowstone Plateau into the subsiding Snake River Plain and provides an opportunity to investigate a transect across the trailing margin of the hotspot. Here, we present a new chronostratigraphy of fluvial terraces along the lower Hoback and Upper Snake Rivers and measure drainage characteristics through Alpine Canyon interpreted in the context of bedrock erodibility. We attempt to evaluate whether incision is driven by uplift of the Yellowstone system, subsidence of the Snake River Plain, or individual faults along the river’s path. The Upper Snake River in our study area is incising at roughly 0.3 m/k.y. (300 m/m.y.), which is similar to estimates from drainages at the leading eastern margin of the Yellowstone system. The pattern of terrace incision, however, is not consistent with widely hypothesized headwater uplift from the hotspot but instead is consistent with downstream baselevel fall as well as localized deformation along normal faults. Both the Astoria and Hoback faults are documented as active in the late Quaternary, and an offset terrace indicates a slip rate of 0.25−0.5 m/k.y. (250−500 m/m.y.) for the Hoback fault. Although tributary channel steepness corresponds with bedrock strength, patterns of χ across divides support baselevel fall to the west. Subsidence of the Snake River Plain may be a source of this baselevel fall, but we suggest that the closer Grand Valley fault system could be more active than previously thought.
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Three-stage modification of lithospheric mantle: Evidence from petrology, in-situ trace elements, and Sr isotopes of mantle xenoliths in the Cenozoic basalts, northeastern North China Craton
Xinran Xu; Yanjie Tang; Jifeng Ying; Xinmiao Zhao; Yan Xiao
Abstract: We present mineralogical and geochemical compositions of mantle xenoliths from two Cenozoic basalt localities of the northeastern North China Craton. These xenoliths include lherzolite, harzburgite, and websterite. They are generally fertile in major elements and different from the typical cratonic lithosphere, which is consistent with previous hypotheses regarding craton destruction. The ratios of 87Sr/86Sr and (La/Yb)N of clinopyroxenes (Cpx) in one lherzolite are relatively low in the core but high in the rim. The center of the Cpx grain has a high U concentration. Changes in trace elements and Sr isotopes indicate that later stage high 87Sr/86Sr melt metasomatism superimposed on the early hydrous melt/fluid. The Cpxs in some xenoliths are low in Ti/Eu but high in Ca/Al and light rare earth elements, which indicates carbonate melt metasomatism. 87Sr/86Sr is increased in the core and decreased in the rim of most Cpx grains, which reflects the superposition of two-stage metasomatism. The early agent should be high in 87Sr/86Sr, and the recent agent should be low in 87Sr/86Sr. The Cpxs in olivine websterite are low in 87Sr/86Sr (0.70220−0.70320), which reflects the recent metasomatism of asthenosphere-derived melt. Collectively, these observations reflect a three-stage modification of the lithospheric mantle. First-stage hydrous melt/fluid could come from the dehydration of young subducted plates. Second-stage melt/fluid of high 87Sr/86Sr could derive from the partial melting of the subducted altered oceanic crust, and the recent melt/fluid of low 87Sr/86Sr should be from the asthenosphere.
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1 October 2021
The Geological Society of America
Release No. 21-57
Contact: Kea Giles

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