Abstract

The northern Canadian Cordillera (NCC) of northwestern Canada is segmented by several margin-parallel, right-lateral, strike-slip faults that accumulated several hundred kilometers of displacement between the Late Cretaceous and the Eocene. The depth extent of these faults, notably the Tintina fault (TF), has important implications for the tectonic assemblage and evolution of NCC lithospheric mantle, but geophysical models and geochemical data remain inconclusive. Using a recent three-dimensional P-wave seismic velocity model, we resolved a series of sharp (∼10 km) P-wave velocity contrasts (∼4%) at uppermost mantle depths beneath the surface trace of the TF. Seismic anisotropy data that represent upper-mantle fabrics revealed similar changes in the orientation and magnitude of anisotropy in the vicinity of the TF. These data suggest that the TF is a lithospheric-scale shear zone. After restoration of 430 km of right-lateral displacement along the TF, fast P-wave anomalies align with the outline of the North American craton margin. We propose the fast anomaly structure currently located in eastern Alaska represents a fragment of the Mackenzie craton that was chiseled and displaced to the northwest by the TF between the Late Cretaceous and the Eocene. A second cratonic fragment currently located in the southern NCC may be associated with the Cassiar terrane at upper-mantle depth. These observations provide the first evidence that large lithospheric-scale shear zones cut through refractory mantle and produce major lateral displacement of cratonic mantle material within cordilleras worldwide.

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