Abstract

A geological and geochronologic investigation of the Nima area along the Jurassic–Early Cretaceous Bangong suture of central Tibet (∼32°N, ∼87°E) provides well-dated records of contractional deformation and sedimentation during mid-Cretaceous and mid-Tertiary time. Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous (≤125 Ma) marine sedimentary rocks were transposed, intruded by granitoids, and uplifted above sea level by ca. 118 Ma, the age of the oldest nonmarine strata documented. Younger nonmarine Cretaceous rocks include ca. 110–106 Ma volcanic-bearing strata and Cenomanian red beds and conglomerates. The Jurassic–Cretaceous rocks are unconformably overlain by up to 4000 m of Upper Oligocene to Lower Miocene lacustrine, nearshore lacustrine, and fluvial red-bed deposits. Paleocurrent directions, growth stratal relationships, and a structural restoration of the basin show that Cretaceous–Tertiary nonmarine deposition was coeval with mainly S-directed thrusting in the northern part of the Nima area and N-directed thrusting along the southern margin of the basin. The structural restoration suggests >58 km (>47%) of N–S shortening following Early Cretaceous ocean closure and ∼25 km shortening (∼28%) of Nima basin strata since 26 Ma. Cretaceous magmatism and syncontractional basin development are attributed to northward low-angle subduction of the Neotethyan oceanic lithosphere and Lhasa-Qiangtang continental collision, respectively. Tertiary syncontractional basin development in the Nima area was coeval with that along the Bangong suture in westernmost Tibet and the Indus-Yarlung suture in southern Tibet, suggesting simultaneous, renewed contraction along these sutures during the Oligocene-Miocene. This suture-zone reactivation immediately predated major displacement within the Himalayan Main Central thrust system shear zone, raising the possibility that Tertiary shortening in Tibet and the Himalayas may be interpretable in the context of a mechanically linked, composite orogenic system.

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