Abstract

A lithostratigraphic association consisting of serpentinized mantle rocks, continent-derived allochthons, mid-oceanic ridge gabbros of Jurassic age and post-rift sediments, typical of an ocean-continent transition, is found in the eclogitic Piemonte units, in the Western Alps. In situ U-Pb geochronology was performed on zircons from an orthogneiss sampled at the bottom of a sliver of continental basement, in contact with serpentinites. Primary magmatic zircons of Permian age were overgrown by a second generation of zircon at ca. 166–150 Ma, likely related to melt infiltration associated with the intrusion of the underlying gabbroic body. This indicates that continental basement slices and oceanic basement rocks were already juxtaposed in the Jurassic and they were probably part of hyper-extended crust related to the opening of the Tethys. Therefore, the complex lithological association described here, which is also characteristic of several (ultra)high-pressure mélange zones worldwide, was acquired prior to the orogenic event, during which it was only partly reworked. Ocean-continent transitions are in positions favorable to reach (ultra)high-pressure conditions, following negatively buoyant oceanic lithosphere into subduction, and then being accreted to the orogen, in response to the arrival of more buoyant continental lithosphere, resisting subduction. The ocean-continent transition is now found in the immediate footwall of a 500-m-thick shear zone, which accommodated multiple episodes of deformation during Eocene–Oligocene time, suggesting an important link between Alpine deformation and rift-related structures.

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