Abstract

Late Paleozoic assembly of the Alexander-Wrangellia-Peninsular composite terrane is recorded by two phases of regional deformation, metamorphism, and magmatism within basement complexes of the Alexander (Craig and Admiralty subterranes), Wrangellia, and Peninsular terranes in the Canadian and Alaskan Cordillera. New secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and chemical abrasion-isotope dilution-thermal ionization mass spectrometry (CA-ID-TIMS) zircon U-Pb ages, whole-rock major- and trace-element and Nd-Sr isotope geochemical compositions, and geological field observations of late Paleozoic igneous rocks were used to identify the precise timing and significance of this tectonism in the Saint Elias Mountains region of southwestern Yukon and eastern Alaska. Middle to Late Pennsylvanian (301–307 Ma) igneous rocks, herein assigned to the Barnard Glacier suite, were preferentially emplaced along the Wrangellia-Craig subterrane boundary and mainly comprise syenitic plutons that intrude Paleozoic country rocks with evidence of Pennsylvanian or older (D1) deformation. We propose that Barnard Glacier suite magmatism was produced by a slab breakoff event after the consumption of a narrow backarc ocean basin and early Pennsylvanian collision between the Wrangellia-Peninsular arc and Craig subterrane passive margin. Early Permian (284–291 Ma) dioritic to granodioritic rocks, herein assigned to the Donjek Glacier suite, comprise the vestiges of an extensive magmatic system within the Craig subterrane of southwestern Yukon and southeastern Alaska. The available data suggest that the Donjek Glacier suite represents part of a short-lived, Early Permian arc that initiated along the outboard margin of the Craig subterrane–Wrangellia–Peninsular block after Pennsylvanian collision and slab breakoff. At two field localities in southwestern Yukon, Paleozoic country rocks with D1 fabrics are also intruded by sills and dikes of the Donjek Glacier suite that show evidence of ca. 285 Ma regional deformation and metamorphism (D2). Field evidence for Early Permian tectonism in the Saint Elias Mountains implies direct connections with coeval deformation and metamorphism in the Admiralty subterrane, a microcontinent in the Admiralty Island region of southeastern Alaska that developed separately from the Craig subterrane prior to the Early Permian. D2 tectonism was likely related to the entry of the Admiralty subterrane margin into the Early Permian subduction zone, which resulted in collision and final amalgamation of the Alexander-Wrangellia-Peninsular composite terrane. Our tectonic scenarios require the currently accepted configuration of the Alexander terrane (composite of the Craig and Admiralty subterranes) to have only existed after the Early Permian collision between the Admiralty subterrane and the previously assembled Craig subterrane–Wrangellia–Peninsular terrane. Biogeographic and other geological data suggest that the two-part assembly of the Alexander-Wrangellia-Peninsular composite terrane took place along a convergent margin to the north of the Cordilleran pericratonic arc terranes (Yukon-Tanana, Quesnellia, and others), in between the paleo–Pacific Ocean and paleo–Arctic Ocean realms, to the northwest of the supercontinent Pangea. The assembly of the Alexander-Wrangellia-Peninsular composite terrane might have been associated with the Early to Middle Permian subduction polarity flip recognized in the Cordilleran pericratonic realm, which led to the closure of a backarc ocean basin and Late Permian arc-continent collision along the western margin of North America.

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