Abstract

Our new stratigraphic, sedimentological, and micropaleontological analysis, integrated with basalt geochemistry, sandstone petrography, and detrital-zircon U-Pb and Hf isotope data, suggests the revision of current models for the geological evolution of the Asian active margin during the Cretaceous. The Xigaze forearc basin began to form in the late Early Cretaceous, south of the Gangdese arc, during the initial subduction of the Neotethyan oceanic lithosphere under the Lhasa terrane. Well-preserved stratigraphic successions document the classical upward-shallowing pattern of the forearc-basin strata and elucidate the origin of the associated oceanic magmatic rocks. The normal mid-ocean-ridge basalt (N-MORB) geochemical signature and stratigraphic contact with the overlying abyssal cherts (Chongdui Formation) indicate that the Xigaze Ophiolite formed by forearc spreading and represents the basement of the forearc sedimentary sequence. Volcaniclastic sedimentation began with thick turbiditic sandstones and interbedded shales in the late Albian–Santonian (Ngamring Formation) followed by shelfal, deltaic, and fluvial strata (Padana Formation), with final filling of the basin by the Campanian age. Forearc sandstones do not show the classical trend from feldspatho-lithic volcaniclastic to quartzo-feldspathic plutoniclastic compositions, indicating limited unroofing of the Gangdese arc prior to collision. U-Pb age spectra of detrital zircons are unimodal with a 107 Ma peak in the lower Ngamring Formation (104–99 Ma), bimodal with a subordinate additional peak at 157 Ma in the middle Ngamring Formation (99–88 Ma), and multimodal with more abundant pre-Mesozoic ages in the upper Ngamring and Padana Formations (88–76 Ma). These three petrofacies with distinct provenances document the progressive erosional evolution of the Gangdese arc, with uplift of the central Lhasa terrane and expanding river catchments to include the central Lhasa terrane during the Late Cretaceous.

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