Short-lived intra-oceanic arc-trench system in the North Qaidam belt (NW China) reveals complex evolution of the Proto-Tethyan Ocean

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Bulletin of the Geological Society of America


Recognition of any intra-oceanic arctrench system (IOAS) could provide invaluable information on the tectonic framework and geodynamic evolution of the vanished ocean basin. The Tanjianshan Complex and mafic-ultramafic rocks along the North Qaidam ultra-high pressure metamorphic belt in NW China record the subduction process of the Proto-Tethyan Ocean. Four lithotectonic units, including island arc, ophiolite, forearc basin, and accretionary complex, are recognized based on detailed field investigation. They rest on the northern margin of the Qaidam block and occur as allochthons in fault contact with underlying highgrade metamorphic rocks. The ophiolite unit mainly consists of ultramafic rocks, 527– 506 Ma gabbro, 515–506 Ma plagiogranite, dolerite, and massive lava. High-Cr spinels in serpentinite, dolerite with forearc basalt affinity, and boninitic lava collectively indicate a forearc setting. The accretionary complex, exposed to the south of the ophiolite complex and island arc, is highly disrupted and contains repeated slices of basalt, 495– 486 Ma tuff, chert, limestone, and mélange. Tuffs with positive zircon εHf(t) values indicate derivation from a nearby juvenile island arc. These lithotectonic units, as well as the back-arc basin, are interpreted to constitute a Cambrian IOAS that formed during the northward subduction of the Proto-Tethyan Ocean. Combined with regional geology, we propose a new geodynamic model involving short-lived Mariana-type subduction and prolonged Andean-type subduction to account for the complex evolution of the Proto-Tethyan Ocean. The reconstruction of a relatively complete IOAS from the North Qaidam belt not only reveals a systematic evolution of intra-oceanic subduction but also advances our understanding of the subduction and accretion history of the Proto-Tethyan Ocean.

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National Natural Science Foundation of China



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