Late Neoproterozoic to Cambrian sandstone units are common in western Laurentia and record initial transgression of the craton after the formation of the western passive margin during the latest Neoproterozoic to earliest Cambrian. Detrital zircon measurements from 42 latest Neoproterozoic to Cambrian basal Sauk sequences and five older Neoproterozoic sandstone samples from a region extending from the Mexico–United States border to central British Columbia, Canada, are combined with previous results to characterize sediment source areas and dispersal systems. Detrital zircon populations in Neoproterozoic and Cambrian sedimentary rocks are divided into six facies based on a statistical comparison using multidimensional scaling. Detrital zircon facies are found in unique geographical regions reflecting proximity to the major tectonic provinces of Laurentia. Samples from northern regions are dominated by Archean and Paleoproterozoic zircons derived from Archean tectonic provinces and the orogenic belts that record the assembly of the Laurentian craton. More southerly sample locations show an increase in detrital zircons derived from younger Paleoproterozoic orogenic belts and early Mesoproterozoic intrusive suites. Detrital zircons from Grenville-aged sources are common in the south. The Transcontinental Arch, a feature interpreted to have controlled large-scale sediment dispersal patterns in the mid- to late Cambrian, likely played a major role in isolating the southern and northern signatures. Our data set can be used to test tectonic models for the Cordilleran orogen that invoke Jurassic or Cretaceous collision of a ribbon continent as the driving mechanism for orogenesis. Cambrian rocks of the Cassiar-Antler platform juxtaposed with North America during the hypothetical ribbon continent collision show the same geographic distribution of detrital zircon facies as similar-aged rocks from autochthonous and parautochthonous locations on the Laurentian margin. The concordance of detrital zircon facies across the proposed suture is a negative result for models that predict large dextral displacements, on the order of 2000 km, across the suture.
Latest Neoproterozoic to Cambrian detrital zircon facies of western Laurentia
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