Abstract

Analysis of the distribution of detrital zircon grains is one of the few parameters by which Precambrian palaeogeography may be interpreted. However, the break-up of Pangea and the subsequent dispersal of some of its fragments around the Indian Ocean demonstrate that zircon analysis alone may be misleading, since zircons indicate their original derivation and not their subsequent plate-tectonic pathways. Based on analysis of Precambrian–Ordovician zircon distributions, the presence of microcontinents and separating oceans in the north Gondwanan realm has been rejected in favour of an undivided pre-Variscan continental northwards extension of Africa to include Iberia, Armorica and neighbouring southern European terranes, based on analysis of Precambrian–Ordovician zircon distribution. However, contrasting views, indicating the presence of three peri-Gondwanan oceans with complete Wilson cycles, are reinforced here by a critical reappraisal of the significance of that Variscan area detrital zircon record together with a comparison of the evolution of the present-day Indian Ocean, indicating that Iberia, Armorica and other terranes were each separate from the main Gondwanan craton during the early Palaeozoic Era.

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