Structural analysis and geochronologic data indicate a nearly orthogonal, late Eocene–Oligocene flow pattern in migmatitic infrastructure immediately beneath the kilometer-thick, extensional, mylonitic shear zone of the Ruby Mountains metamorphic core complex, Nevada. New U-Pb radiometric dating indicates that the development of a northward-trending lineation in the infrastructure is partly coeval with the development of a pervasive, west-northwest–trending lineation in the mylonitic shear zone. U-Pb monazite data from the leucogranite orthogneiss of Thorpe Creek indicate a crystallization age of ca. 36–39 Ma. Zircon fractions from a biotite monzogranite dike yield an age of ca. 29 Ma. The three dated samples from these units exhibit a penetrative, approximately north-south–trending elongation lineation. This lineation is commonly defined by oriented bundles of sillimanite and/or elongated aggregates of quartz and feldspar, indicating a synmetamorphic and syndeformational origin. The elongation lineation can be interpreted as a slip line in the flow plane of the migmatitic, nonmylonitic infrastructural core of the northern Ruby Mountains. A portion of this midcrustal flow is coeval with the well-documented, west-northwest sense of slip in the structurally overlying kilometer-thick, mid-Tertiary mylonitic shear zone. Lineations in the mylonitic zone are orthogonal to those in the deeper infrastructure, suggesting fundamental plastic decoupling between structural levels in this core complex. Furthermore, the infrastructure is characterized by overlapping, oppositely verging fold nappes, which are rooted to the east and west. One of the nappes may be synkinematic with the intrusion of the late Eocene orthogneiss of Thorpe Creek. In addition, the penetrative, elongation lineation in the infrastructure is subparallel to hinge lines of parasitic folds developed synchronous with the fold nappes, suggesting a kinematically related evolution.
The area is evaluated in terms of a whole-crust extension model. Magmatic underplating in the lower crust stimulated the production of late Eocene–early Oligocene granitic magmas, which invaded metasedimentary and Mesozoic granitic rocks of the middle crust. The midcrustal rocks, weakened by the magmatic heat influx, acted as a low-viscosity compensating material, decoupled from an extending upper crust. The fold nappes and lineation trends suggest large-scale flow of the weakened crust into the study area. The inflow pattern in the migmatitic infrastructure can be interpreted as a manifestation of midcrustal migration into an area beneath a domain of highly extended upper crustal rocks. At present the inferred Eocene–early Oligocene phase of upper-crust extension remains unknown, but available data on relative and geochronologic timing are not inconsistent with our model of return flow into an area already undergoing large-scale upper-crustal extension.