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One of the most outstanding apparent examples in N America of a forcibly emplaced pluton is the Papoose Flat Pluton of eastern California. Sideways expansion of this granitic pluton, during emplacement into a series of Cambrian shelf strata, has been regarded by early workers as resulting in the observed intense crystal plastic deformation of the pluton’s mylonitic border facies and surrounding country rocks. This deformation is evidenced by up to 90% thinning of individual stratigraphic layers within the pluton’s metamorphic aureole, although such intense penetrative deformation of the country rocks is not observed outside the aureole.

Previously published quartz c-axis fabrics associated with this deformation (and presented on projection planes oriented perpendicular to lineation) were interpreted as being symmetrical with respect to foliation and lineation, implying almost coaxial deformation histories. Such fabrics could be interpreted as indicating that the pluton evolved by “ballooning” as a result of new magma being intruded into its core during emplacement. However, a major problem with applying the strict ballooning model to the Papoose Flat Pluton is that while oblate strains would be expected to develop in association with a ballooning mechanism, the mylonitic rocks of this elongate WNW–ESE-trending pluton and its aureole are characterised by both a strongly developed foliation, which is concordant with the pluton’s margin, and an intense, NW–SE trending, shallow plunging stretching lineation.

Previously published fabrics from the Papoose Flat Pluton and its metamorphic aureole have been rotated on to a projection plane oriented parallel to lineation and perpendicular to foliation. Examination of the fabrics in this projection plane has revealed that they are in fact dominantly asymmetric, and that a constant sense of asymmetry is detected across the pluton, suggesting a consistent (top-to-the-SE) shear-sense. This new interpretation is strongly supported by microstructural and petrofabric analysis of additional L-S tectonites collected, during recent fieldwork, from both the aureole and quartz veins within the pluton’s gneissic border facies. Thus mylonite formation around the Papoose Flat Pluton could have involved large-scale consistently oriented translation and associated shearing, rather than passive “blister-like” coaxial deformation associated with pluton ballooning. It should be noted that mylonitic deformation is restricted to the western half of the pluton, features indicative of a more “permitted” emplacement mechanism being found in the eastern portion of the pluton.

The detected top-to-the-SE shear-sense could be interpreted as indicating that the granitic material forming the western part of the pluton was forcibly intruded in a northwestward direction from the pluton source as a nearly solidified wedge beneath a static cover of sedimentary rocks. Alternatively, the detected shear sense could also be interpreted as indicating SE-directed thrusting of the cover rocks over the underlying pluton, the western margin of the pluton suffering intense mylonitic deformation, while the eastern margin was located in a “stress-shadow” region. If this alternative interpretation is correct, then the deformation temperatures indicated by the pattern of quartz c-axis fabrics dictate that thrusting must either be synchronous with pluton emplacement, or at least have commenced during the early stages of pluton cooling.

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