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New global palaeogeographical reconstructions for the Early Palaeozoic and their generation

Trond H. Torsvik
Trond H. Torsvik
Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED), University of Oslo, 0316 Oslo, NorwayGeodynamics Centre, Geological Survey of Norway, Leif Eirikssons vei 39, N-7491 Trondheim, NorwaySchool of Geosciences, University of Witwatersrand, WITS 2050, South Africa
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L. Robin M. Cocks
L. Robin M. Cocks
Department of Earth Sciences, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
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January 01, 2013


New palaeogeographical reconstructions are presented at 10 myr intervals from the Lower Cambrian at 540 Ma to the Lower Devonian at 400 Ma, showing continental crustal fragments and oceans (not lands and seas), with appropriate kinematic continuity between successive maps. The maps were chiefly generated by revised and selected palaeomagnetic data and revised Apparent Polar Wandering paths linked to present-day polygons from the main continents. These have been reinforced by analysis of the distributions of some fossils and sediments. Gondwana was the dominating supercontinent from its final assembly in the Latest Neoproterozoic at about 550 Ma until the Carboniferous, and covered much of the Southern Hemisphere. The Northern Hemisphere was largely occupied by the vast Panthalassic Ocean. The relative positions of the major continents and the latitudes and rotation histories of Gondwana, Baltica, Siberia and Laurentia (Laurussia from the mid-Silurian) are now well known. Although Laurentia was oriented in a similar direction to the present, Siberia was inverted throughout the Lower Palaeozoic, and Baltica too was initially inverted, but rotated through 120° between the Late Cambrian and Late Ordovician before collision with Laurentia in the mid-Silurian Caledonide Orogeny. Through reconstructions of the Caledonide and some other orogenies, the progressive history of the Iapetus Ocean between Laurentia and Baltica/Gondwana is well constrained. Less major continents whose positions are also well known include Avalonia (initially peri-Gondwanan but migrating in the Early Ordovician to join Baltica by the end of the Ordovician), Sibumasu (now considered an integral part of Gondwana) and Mongolia (adjacent to Siberia). A large number of other terranes are reviewed and plotted on the reconstructions with varying degrees of certainty. However, significant continents with less well constrained or controversial positions are South China, North China (Sinokorea), Annamia (Indochina) and Arctic Alaska–Chukotka. The European areas of France, Iberia and southern Italy, previously considered by some as a separate Armorican Terrane Assemblage, remained parts of core Gondwana until the opening of the Palaeotethys Ocean near the end of the Silurian, but it is uncertain whether Perunica (Bohemia) was one of that group or whether it left Gondwana during the Middle Ordovician.

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Figures & Tables


Geological Society, London, Memoirs

Early Palaeozoic Biogeography and Palaeogeography

D. A. T. Harper
D. A. T. Harper
Durham University, UK
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T. Servais
T. Servais
CNRS–Université de Lille 1, France
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2013




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