Adakites are geochemically distinct intermediate to felsic lavas found exclusively in subduction zones. Here we report the first example of such magmas from southern Tibet in an active continental collision environment. The Tibetan adakites were emplaced from ca. 26 to 10 Ma, and their overall geochemical characteristics suggest an origin by melting of eclogites and/or garnet amphibolites in the lower part (≥50 km) of thickened Tibetan crust. This lower-crustal melting required a significantly elevated geotherm, which we attribute to removal of the tectonically thickened lithospheric mantle in late Oligocene time. The identification of collision-type adakites from southern Tibet lends new constraints to not only the Himalayan-Tibetan orogenesis—how and when the Indian lithosphere started underthrusting Asia can be depicted—but also the growth of the early continental crust on Earth that consists dominantly of the tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite suites marked by adakitic geochemical affinities.

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