Palaeozoic–Mesozoic history of SE Asia
SE Asia comprises a collage of Gondwana-derived continental blocks assembled by the closure of multiple Tethyan and back-arc ocean basins now represented by suture zones. Two major biogeographical boundaries, the Late Palaeozoic Gondwana–Cathaysia divide and the Cenozoic-Recent Australia–Asia divide (Wallace Line) are present. Palaeozoic and Mesozoic evolution involved the rifting and separation of three collages of continental terranes from eastern Gondwana and the opening and closure of three successive ocean basins, the Palaeo-Tethys (Devonian–Triassic), Meso-Tethys (Permian–Cretaceous) and Ceno-Tethys (Late Triassic–Cenozoic). This led to the opening and closing of ocean gateways and provision of shallow-marine and terrestrial land bridges and stepping-stones for biotic migration. The SE Asia core (Sundaland) comprises a western Sibumasu block, an eastern Indochina–East Malaya block, and the Sukhothai Island Arc terrane between. The Jinghong, Nan-Uttaradit and Sra Kaeo sutures represent the Sukhothai closed back-arc basin. The Palaeo-Tethys is represented by the Changning-Menglian, Chiang Mai/Inthanon and Bentong-Raub suture zones. The West Sumatra and West Burma blocks were accreted to the Sundaland core in the Late Permian–Early Triassic. SW Borneo and/or East Java–West Sulawesi are now identified as the missing ‘Argoland’ that separated from NW Australia in the Jurassic and accreted to SE Sundaland in the Cretaceous.
Figures & Tables
Collision between Australia and SE Asia began in the Early Miocene and reduced the former wide ocean between them to a complex passage which connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Today, the Indonesian Throughflow passes through this gateway and plays an important role in global thermohaline flow. The surrounding region contains the maximum global diversity for many marine and terrestrial organisms. Reconstruction of this geologically complex region is essential for understanding its role in oceanic and atmospheric circulation, climate impacts, and the origin of its biodiversity.
The papers in this volume discuss the Palaeozoic to Cenozoic geological background to Australia and SE Asia collision. They provide the background for accounts of the modern Indonesian Throughflow and oceanographic changes since the Neogene, and consider aspects of the region’s climate history.