The East Kunlun Orogen (EKO) in the northern Tibetan Plateau records two continental collisional orogenic events and magmatism in early Paleozoic and early Mesozoic. However, possible magmatic additions to the continental crust growth of the EKO in different tectonic stages of early Paleozoic collisional orogeny have been overlooked. Three phases of early Paleozoic plutons from the Xiangride-Kuhai area in the east of the EKO have been chosen for detailed investigation and the results are reported here. The oldest magmatic suite (Stage 1) includes the ca. 471 Ma Qurelong Monzodiorite and ca. 454 Ma granodiorite in the Zhiyu Intrusive Complex. The monzodiorite has a sanukitoid-like composition with high TiO2 and Y contents and is interpreted as being derived from partial melting of metasomatized mantle wedge lherzolite. The granodiorite is typified by its high SiO2 content, high Sr/Y ratio, and depleted Hf isotope, and is interpreted as an adakite-like melt derived from the melting of a subducted Proto-Tethys oceanic crust. The magmatism can be linked to northward subduction of the Proto-Tethys Ocean between 520 and 450 Ma. Stage 2 magmatism is represented by a plutonic suite emplaced during ca. 450–431 Ma with an I-type granitic composition. Of these, the ca. 447 Ma Kengdenongshe Intrusion composed of peraluminous granite with enriched Nd-Hf isotopes is indicative of a Mesoproterozoic igneous source in the orogen. The ca. 450–434 Ma monzogranite and granodiorite in the Walega and Zhiyu intrusive complexes exhibit variable element and isotope compositions. They would have been generated by magma mixing of felsic melts from the old crust and mafic magmas derived from the metasomatized lithospheric mantle, with a mafic melt proportion of >30%. The ca. 431 Ma quartz diorite in the Walega Intrusive Complex is formed through crustal assimilation and fractional crystallization of mafic magmas derived from the metasomatized lithospheric mantle, with a mafic melt proportion >60%. Stage 2 suite was emplaced during the closure of Proto-Tethys oceanic branches and subsequent continental collision during 450–426 Ma. Magmatism diminished between ca. 426 and 410 Ma during exhumation of the continental lithosphere as indicated by the presence of retrograde eclogites in the EKO. Stage 3 magmatic suite includes the ca. 408 Ma Langmuri Intrusion and ca. 403 Ma Niantang Syenogranite. These plutons are adakite-like or have an A-type granitic composition and are enriched in Nd-Hf isotopes. They might have been derived from the remelting of old and juvenile continental crust in a post-collisional extensional setting during 410–390 Ma. Identification of partial melts, derived from the subducted Proto-Tethys oceanic crust and metasomatized lithospheric mantle in stage 1 and 2 plutons, show that the subcrustal materials have been significantly transferred to the overlying continental crust. Hence the magmatism in oceanic subduction (Stage 1) and continental collision (Stage 2) settings contributes to the early Paleozoic juvenile continental crust growth of the EKO. The post-collisional extensional setting (Stage 3) is dominated by the reworking of a pre-existing continental crust. The early Paleozoic continental crust growth processes in the EKO are different from the previous view in which the continental collision orogens have no crust growth, and inconsistent with the proposal that crust growth is significant only in a continental collision setting.

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