Neoproterozoic–early Palaeozoic tectonostratigraphy and palaeogeography of the peri-Gondwanan terranes: Amazonian v. West African connections
R. Damian Nance, J. Brendan Murphy, Rob A. Strachan, J. Duncan Keppie, Gabriel Gutiérrez-Alonso, Javier Fernández-Suárez, Cecilio Quesada, Ulf Linnemann, Richard D’lemos, Sergei A. Pisarevsky, 2008. "Neoproterozoic–early Palaeozoic tectonostratigraphy and palaeogeography of the peri-Gondwanan terranes: Amazonian v. West African connections", The Boundaries of the West African Craton, Nasser Ennih, Jean-Paul Liégeois
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Within the Appalachian–Variscan orogen of North America and southern Europe lie a collection of terranes that were distributed along the northern margin of West Gondwana in the late Neoproterozoic and early Palaeozoic. These peri-Gondwanan terranes are characterized by voluminous late Neoproterozoic (c. 640–570 Ma) arc magmatism and cogenetic basins, and their tectonothermal histories provide fundamental constraints on the palaeogeography of this margin and on palaeocontinental reconstructions for this important period in Earth history. Field and geochemical studies indicate that arc magmatism generally terminated diachronously with the formation of a transform margin, leading by the Early–Middle Cambrian to the development of a shallow-marine platform–passive margin characterized by Gondwanan fauna. However, important differences exist between these terranes that constrain their relative palaeogeography in the late Neoproterozoic and permit changes in the geometry of the margin from the late Neoproterozoic to the Early Cambrian to be reconstructed. On the basis of basement isotopic composition, the terranes can be subdivided into: (1) Avalonian-type (e.g. West Avalonia, East Avalonia, Meguma, Carolinia, Moravia–Silesia), which developed on juvenile, c. 1.3–1.0 Ga crust originating within the Panthalassa-like Mirovoi Ocean surrounding Rodinia, and which were accreted to the northern Gondwanan margin by c. 650 Ma; (2) Cadomian-type (e.g. North Armorican Massif, Ossa–Morena, Saxo-Thuringia, Moldanubia), which formed along the West African margin by recycling ancient (c. 2.0–2.2 Ga) West African crust; (3) Ganderian-type (e.g. Ganderia, Florida, the Maya terrane and possible the NW Iberian domain and South Armorican Massif), which formed along the Amazonian margin of Gondwana by recycling Avalonian and older Amazonian basement; and (4) cratonic terranes (e.g. Oaxaquia and the Chortis block), which represent displaced Amazonian portions of cratonic Gondwana. These contrasts imply the existence of fundamental sutures between these terranes prior to c. 650 Ma. Derivation of the Cadomian-type terranes from the West African craton is further supported by detrital zircon data from their Neoproterozoic–Ediacaran clastic rocks, which contrast with such data from the Avalonian- and Ganderian-type terranes that suggest derivation from the Amazonian craton. Differences in Neoproterozoic and Ediacaran palaeogeography are also matched in some terranes by contrasts in Cambrian faunal and sedimentary provenance data. Platformal assemblages in certain Avalonian-type terranes (e.g. West Avalonia and East Avalonia) have cool-water, high-latitude fauna and detrital zircon signatures consistent with proximity to the Amazonian craton. Conversely, platformal assemblages in certain Cadomian-type terranes (e.g. North Armorican Massif, Ossa–Morena) show a transition from tropical to temperate waters and detrital zircon signatures that suggest continuing proximity to the West African craton. Other terranes (e.g. NW Iberian domain, Meguma) show Avalonian-type basement and/or detrital zircon signatures in the Neoproterozoic, but develop Cadomian-type signatures in the Cambrian. This change suggests tectonic slivering and lateral transport of terranes along the northern margin of West Gondwana consistent with the transform termination of arc magmatism. In the early Palaeozoic, several peri-Gondwanan terranes (e.g. Avalonia, Carolinia, Ganderia, Meguma) separated from West Gondwana, either separately or together, and had accreted to Laurentia by the Silurian–Devonian. Others (e.g. Cadomian-type terranes, Florida, Maya terrane, Oaxaquia, Chortis block) remained attached to Gondwana and were transferred to Laurussia only with the closure of the Rheic Ocean in the late Palaeozoic.
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The Boundaries of the West African Craton
The boundaries of rigid cratons can be affected by subsequent orogenic events, leading to ‘metacratonic’ characteristics not often properly recognized and still poorly understood. Major lithospheric thickening is absent and early events such as ophiolites are preserved; however, metacratonic boundaries are affected by major shear zones, abundant magmatism and mineralizations, and local high-pressure metamorphism.
West Africa, marked by the large Eburnian (c. 2 Ga) West African craton, the absence of Mesoproterozoic events, the major Pan-African (0.9–0.55 Ga) mobile belts that generated the Peri-Gondawanan terranes, and the weaker but enlightening Variscan and Alpine orogenies, is an excellent place for tackling this promising concept of metacratonization.
The papers in this book consider most of the West African craton boundaries, from the reworking of the Palaeoproterozoic terranes, through the Pan-African encircling terranes, the late Neoproterozoic-early Palaeozoic extension period and the Peri-Gondwanan terranes, the Variscan imprint to the current situation.