Abstract

Exhumation of high- and ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic rocks in collisional orogens may be explained by upward extrusion of these rocks, erosion of their overburden, or extensional thinning of the overburden. Some high-pressure terranes, such as the Adula nappe in the Central Alps, fit none of these scenarios. We propose an additional way in which part of the overburden may be removed: it may sink off into the deeper mantle (slab extraction). Structural and metamorphic relationships in and around the Adula nappe indicate that the emplacement of this Alpine high- to ultrahigh-pressure nappe (to 3.2 GPa) in a pile of lower-pressure nappes resulted from the interaction of two subduction zones that accommodated the closure of two ocean basins, ultimately leading to the extraction of the intervening slab. In terms of mechanics, the cause of the exhumation is, in this case, not the buoyancy of the high-pressure rocks, but the negative buoyancy of the extracted slab.

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