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The Appalachians are a Paleozoic orogen that formed in a complete Wilson cycle along the eastern Laurentian margin following the breakup of supercontinent Rodinia and the coalescence of all of the continents to form supercontinent Pangea. The Appalachian Wilson cycle began by formation of a Neoproterozoic to early Paleozoic rifted margin and platform succession on the southeastern margin of Laurentia. Three orogenies ultimately produced the mountain chain: the Ordovician Taconic orogeny, which involved arc accretion; the Acadian–Neoacadian orogeny, which involved north-to-south, transpressional, zippered, Late Devonian–early Mississippian collision of the Carolina superterrane in the southern-central Appalachians and the Avalon-Gander superterrane in the New England Appalachians, and Silurian collision in the Maritime Appalachians and Newfoundland; and the Alleghanian orogeny, which involved late Mississippian to Permian collision of all previously formed Appalachian components with Gondwana to form supercontinent Pangea. The Alleghanian also involved zippered, north-to-south, transpressional, then head-on collision. All orogenies were diachronous. Similar time-correlative orogenies affected western and central Europe (Variscan events), eastern Europe and western Siberia (Uralian events), and southern Britain and Ireland; only the Caledonide (Grampian–Finnmarkian; Caledonian–Scandian) events affected the rest of Britain and the Scandinavian Caledonides. These different events, coupled with the irregular rifted margin of Laurentia, produced an orogen that contains numerous contrasts and nonthroughgoing elements, but it also contains elements, such as the platform margin and peri-Gondwanan elements, that are recognizable throughout the orogen.

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