The Altyn Tagh Fault (ATF) defines the northern margin of the Tibetan Plateau; therefore, its tectonic history is key to understanding the plateau’s northward growth. However, our understanding of ATF tectonics is incomplete, owing in part to a lack of constraints in detailed basin evolution studies of this region. Approximately 1700 m of Middle Miocene – Pliocene clastic strata extracted from a section of the Yitunbulake Basin adjacent to the midsection of the ATF records the uplift of the Altyn Tagh Range. This paper reports 490 concordant detrital zircon U–Pb ages derived from this set of strata. In addition, paleocurrents and conglomerate clastic compositions were measured to determine the provenance of the basin. The dominant detrital zircon age populations within these sedimentary rocks are 260–240, 500–400, and 950–900 Ma. The 260–240 Ma component decreases sharply above the Lower (Xia) Youshashan (XYSS) Formation. Moreover, we performed (U–Th)/He dating on 260–240 Ma detrital zircons from the XYSS Formation to determine its source region. The results indicate that sandstones in this formation are most likely sourced immediately from plutonic rocks widely distributed in the Eastern Kunlun Mountains. The upward change in detrital zircon U–Pb age components in the section demonstrates that widespread surface uplift of the Akatengneng Mountains in the midsection of the ATF likely occurred after ∼16–15 Ma, which is synchronous with accelerated tectonic deformation along the ATF and a rapid increase in the sedimentation rate in the Qaidam Basin since the Middle Miocene.

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