Abstract

During collisional convergence, failure in extension of the lithosphere of the lower plate due to slab pull will reduce the thickness or completely remove lower-plate lithosphere and cause decompression melting of the asthenospheric mantle; magmas from this source may subsequently provide enough heat for substantial partial melting of crustal rocks under or beyond the toe of the collisional accretionary system. In central Maine, United States, this type of magmatism is first apparent in the Early Devonian West Branch Volcanics and equivalent mafic volcanics, in the slightly younger voluminous mafic/silicic magmatic event of the Moxie Gabbro–Katahdin batholith and related ignimbrite volcanism, and in other Early Devonian granitic plutons. Similar lower-plate collisional sequences with mafic and related silicic magmatism probably caused by slab breakoff are seen in the Miocene–Holocene Papuan orogen, and the Hercynian–Alleghenian belt. Magmatism of this type is significant because it gives evidence in those examples of whole-lithosphere extension. We infer that normal fault systems in outer trench slopes of collisional orogens in general, and possibly those of oceanic subduction zones, may not be primarily due to flexural bending, but are also driven by whole-lithosphere extension due to slab pull. The Maine Acadian example suggests that slab failure and this type of magmatism may be promoted by preexisting large margin-parallel faults in the lower plate.

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