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Abstract

We summarize ages of the high-pressure/low-temperature (HP/LT) metamorphic evolution of the central and the western Alps. The individual isotopic mineral ages are interpreted to represent either: (1) early growth of metamorphic minerals on the prograde path; (2) timing close to peak metamorphism; or (3) retrograde resetting of the chronometers at still-elevated pressures. Therefore, each individual age cannot easily be transferred to a geodynamic setting at a certain time. These different data indicate a subduction-related metamorphism between 62 and 35 Ma in different units (e.g. Voltri Massif, Schistes Lustrés of the western Alps, Tauern Window). Oceanic and continental basement units show isotope ages related to eclogitic or blueschist facies metamorphism between 75 and 40 Ma. Most of these ages may record equilibration along the retrograde path, except of some Lu/Hf garnet ages and some zircon SHRIMP ages, which provide information on the prograde path. These different isotope ages are interpreted as different steps along pressure–time paths and so may provide some information on the geodynamic evolution. The data record a continuous subduction, which is ongoing for several tens of millions years. In a large-scale picture, we have to assume fragmentation of the downgoing plate in order to explain the available P–T and t data. This interpretation questions the ongoing driving force for subduction during the disappearance of the Alpine Tethys.

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