Rheic Ocean mafic complexes: overview and synthesis
J. Brendan Murphy, Gabriel Gutiérrez-Alonso, R. Damian Nance, Javier Fernández-Suárez, J. Duncan Keppie, Cecilio Quesada, Jaroslav Dostal, James A. Braid, 2009. "Rheic Ocean mafic complexes: overview and synthesis", Ancient Orogens and Modern Analogues, J. B. Murphy, J. D. Keppie, A. J. Hynes
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The Rheic Ocean formed during the Late Cambrian–Early Ordovician when peri-Gondwanan terranes (e.g. Avalonia) drifted from the northern margin of Gondwana, and was consumed during the collision between Laurussia and Gondwana and the amalgamation of Pangaea. Several mafic complexes, from the Acatlán Complex in Mexico to the Bohemian Massif in eastern Europe, have been interpreted to represent vestiges of the Rheic Ocean. Most of these complexes are either Late Cambrian–Early Ordovician or Late Palaeozoic in age. Late Cambrian–Early Ordovician complexes are predominantly rift-related continental tholeiites, derived from an enriched c. 1.0 Ga subcontinental lithospheric mantle, and are associated with crustally-derived felsic volcanic rocks. These complexes are widespread and virtually coeval along the length of the Gondwanan margin. They reflect magmatism that accompanied the early stages of rifting and the formation of the Rheic Ocean, and they remained along the Gondwanan margin to form part of a passive margin succession as Avalonia and other peri-Gondwanan terranes drifted northward. True ophiolitic complexes of this age are rare, a notable exception occurring in NW Iberia where they display ensimatic arc geochemical affinities. These complexes were thrust over, or extruded into, the Gondwanan margin during the Late Devonian–Carboniferous collision between Gondwana and Laurussia (Variscan orogeny). The Late Palaeozoic mafic complexes (Devonian and Carboniferous) preserve many of the lithotectonic and/or chemical characteristics of ophiolites. They are characterized by derivation from an anomalous mantle which displays time-integrated depletion in Nd relative to Sm. Devonian ophiolites pre-date closure of the Rheic Ocean. Although their tectonic setting is controversial, there is a consensus that most of them reflect narrow tracts of oceanic crust that originated along the Laurussian margin, but were thrust over Gondwana during Variscan orogenesis. The relationship of the Carboniferous ophiolites to the Rheic Ocean sensu stricto is unclear, but some of them apparently formed in a strike-slip regimes within a collisional setting directly related to the final stages of the closure of the Rheic Ocean.
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Plate tectonics provide a unifying conceptual framework for the understanding of Phanerozoic orogens. More controversially, recent syntheses apply these principles as far back as the Early Archaean. Many ancient orogens are, however, poorly preserved and the processes responsible for them are not well understood. The effects of processes such as delamination, subduction of oceanic and aseismic ridges, overriding of plumes and subduction erosion are rarely identified in ancient orogens, although they have a profound effect on Cenozoic orogens. However, deeply eroded ancient orogens provide insights into the hidden roots of modern orogens. Recent advances in analytical techniques, as well as in fields such as geodynamics, have provided fresh insights into ancient orogenic belts, so that realistic modern analogies can now be applied. This Special Publication offers up-to-date reviews and models for some of the most important orogenic belts developed over the past 2.5 billion years of Earth history.