Publication Details

White, L. T., Hall, R., Gunawan, I. & Kohn, B. (2019). Tectonic mode switches recorded at the northern edge of the Australian Plate during the Pliocene and Pleistocene. Tectonic, 38 (1), 281-306.


We report new data from medium‐high grade metamorphic rocks found at the northern margin of the Lengguru Fold Belt in West Papua. The study involved a systematic analysis of cross‐cutting structures to establish the relative timing of deformation, together with isotopic dating to define when these tectono‐thermal events occurred. These data show that the region underwent multiple episodes of deformation within the last six million years. Metamorphic mineral growth was associated with the development of ductile shear zones. This episode occurred during a phase of crustal stretching associated with the formation of a metamorphic core complex. Metamorphic zircon growth at 4.9 to 5.3 Ma was documented in two of the dated samples. These data are interpreted to post‐date the peak pressure and temperature conditions of the phase of regional crustal stretching. The shear fabrics associated with the metamorphic core complex were later overprinted by at least two generations of folds. The change in mode from crustal extension to shortening reflects a tectonic mode switch. A subsequent mode switch is documented by numerous brittle extensional faults that cross‐cut the earlier formed ductile fabrics. We interpret ca. 0.75-1.51 Ma (U-Th)/He age data to reflect cooling associated with the later stages of crustal shortening (marked by folds) or the later extensional unroofing of the peninsula. This work demonstrates that an orogen can record multiple tectonic mode switches within several million years. These outcomes should be considered in studies of ancient orogens where analytical uncertainties associated with isotopic dating may mask short‐lived mode switches.



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