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Abstract

The Indo-Myanmar Ranges (IMR) of NE India are host to various ophiolitic rocks, including metamorphosed Alpine-type harzburgite and lherzolite. Compared to abyssal peridotites of normal oceanic lithosphere, these ultramafic rocks are enriched in trace and rare earth elements. Spilitic pillow lavas along with mafic dykes and sills locally intruded into the serpentinized ultramafic rocks and associated pelagic sediments exhibit alkaline compositional affinities. Ophiolite formation and emplacement were by a process analogous to that described for mantle exhumation in hyper-extended continental margin settings and ophiolites in parts of the European Alps, involving very slow passive continental margin rifting accompanied by slow upwelling or extensional unroofing of the subcontinental upper mantle up to the seafloor. Preliminary palaeomagnetic measurements conducted on ultramafic rocks within the IMR ophiolite belt give a virtual geomagnetic pole (VGP) at 47° N, 045° E for thermal demagnetization (TDM) measurements and 33° N, 013° E for the alternating field demagnetization (AfD) measurements, requiring an anticlockwise rotation of the ultramafic bodies by 14° during the subduction process. The original trend of the spreading axis of the ophiolites was probably NE–SW, with spreading directed NW–SE. Computation of palaeolatitude of the ultramafic rocks gives an average value of 24.67°. Comparison between the palaeolatitude and the present latitude of the sample sites provides a mere latitudinal shift of less than 1°.

Field studies, combined with an analysis of structural and tectonic features in the IMR, suggest a generalized WNW–ESE (east–west) compression and NNE–SSW (north–south) extension contradictory to the NNE–SSW contraction indicated by seismic data. Area balancing techniques employed along sections orientated perpendicular to regional tectonic strike in the IMR reveal systematic variations in the amount of crustal shortening, with a maximum of approximately 60% recorded in the Nagaland–Manipur segment along 25.644° N, 93.826° E–25.076° N, 95.897° E. The amount of shortening gradually decreases away from the axis of maximum shortening and on both sides. Calculations of relative plate motion based on rotation vectors given by different workers for various plate pairs represented in the region reveal that the interaction between the Indian and Myanmar plates can ideally produce the structural and tectonic features of this range. Dextral shear coupled to oblique subduction of the Indian Plate below the Myanmar Plate can best explain all of the structural and tectonic features present in the IMR.

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