Subduction complexes along the Andean margin in central and southern Chile yield mid-Paleozoic to lower Mesozoic ages, yet they crop out within 100 km of the modern trench that shows evidence of active accretion along much of its length. The scarcity of uplifted subduction-complex rocks younger than mid-Mesozoic along the Chilean margin and in parts of the Scotia Arc suggests to us that these old, crystalline rocks, uplifted in the Triassic and Jurassic, represent a boundary in the forearc beyond which tectonic erosion does not easily occur.
Greenschist-, blueschist-, and amphibolite-facies subduction-complex rocks from the Scotia Arc were originally thought to be a simple continuation of the subduction complexes in Chile. Based on new 40Ar/39Ar ages, the Scotia Arc subduction complexes reveal a complex history related to distinct local tectonic events and are not a simple continuation of the old accretionary prism in Chile. Structural and metamorphic analysis indicates the earliest and most penetrative deformation in the subduction complexes around the Scotia Arc occurred at some depth in a subduction zone or zones, certainly below the brittle-ductile transition, and in some cases under blueschist-facies conditions. We believe that the early subduction-related deformation and metamorphism in the greenschist- and blueschist-facies rocks of the Scotia Arc to be overprinted by mid-Cretaceous transpression along the South America-Antarctica plate boundary in the case of Elephant Island, transpression and subsequent localized transtension in the earliest Cenozoic in the case of the Darwin Complex, a mid-Cenozoic spreading-rate change in the case of Smith Island, and early Neogene initiation of Drake Passage opening/Shackleton Fracture Zone formation in the case of the Gibbs Island subgroup.