Abstract

Plate tectonics can develop from oceanic subduction to continental collision, with disappearance of presubducted oceanic crust in continental subduction zones. This is typical for collisional orogens where Tethyan oceanic crust was consumed during continental convergence, with recycling of the Tethyan oceanic crust into the mantle. However, it is difficult to trace the geochemical signature of the previously subducted oceanic crust in collisional orogens. Postcollisional mafic igneous rocks in the Tongbai-Hong’an orogens provide a geochemical record of crust-mantle interaction during Paleotethyan oceanic subduction preceding the Triassic continental collision. These mafic igneous rocks were emplaced in the Cretaceous after continental collision and exhibit oceanic-island basalt (OIB)–like trace-element distribution patterns, with enrichment of large ion lithophile elements (LILEs) and light rare earth elements (LREEs) but no depletion of high field strength elements (HFSEs). They also show relatively depleted whole-rock Sr-Nd-Hf isotope compositions, with initial 87Sr/86Sr ratios of 0.7043–0.7050, εNd(t) values of –1.8–4.5, and εHf(t) values of 4.7–10.3. Such geochemical features indicate their origin from a juvenile mantle source that contained subducted oceanic crust–derived material. Thus, we suggest that the mantle source was generated by a melt-peridotite reaction at the slab-mantle interface in the Paleotethyan oceanic subduction channel during continental collision. The original peridotite would have been characterized by depletion of melt-mobile incompatible trace elements and radiogenic Sr-Nd-Hf isotopes, corresponding to the juvenile subarc lithospheric mantle. In contrast, the subducted crust–derived material would have been characterized by enrichment of LILEs and LREEs but no depletion of HFSEs, corresponding to felsic melts that were derived from partial melting of the subducting Paleotethyan oceanic basalt and sediment outside the rutile stability field. As such, the melt-peridotite reaction would generate pyroxenite-rich ultramafic metasomatites in the lower part of the mantle wedge, with relative enrichment of LILEs and LREEs but no depletion of HFSEs. In this model, partial melting of the metasomatites gave rise to the postcollisional mafic igneous rocks in the Tongbai-Hong’an orogens. Therefore, the postcollisional mafic igneous rocks record the recycling of Paleotethyan oceanic crust in the collisional orogen.

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