Abstract

The Uralides—the late Precambrian and Paleozoic orogenic terrane between the Russian and Siberian Platforms—in part are exposed in the Ural Mountains, in the central Soviet Arctic, along the west edge of the Siberian Platform, and in southern Siberia and Kazakhstan, and in part are buried beneath the fill of the West Siberian Lowlands and other basins. Paleomagnetic orientations suggest that the Russian and Siberian Platforms were far apart during the early Paleozoic, converged during the middle Paleozoic, and collided in the Permian or Triassic. The geology of the Uralides accords with the concept that the two subcontinents approached and collided as the intervening oceanic plate slid beneath them along subduction (Benioff) zones.

The medial eugeosyncline of the Uralides consists largely of what may be oceanic material scraped off against the edges of the opposed subcontinents. Basalt-and-spilite belts may represent ocean-floor abyssal tholeiite, and the manganiferous cherts and other sediments upon them may be pelagic oozes. Andesite belts may have formed as island arcs within the ocean, swept subsequently against the continents. Fossil subduction zones are recorded by great faults soled by, or containing tectonic injections of, mafic and ultramafic rocks from the lower oceanic crust and upper mantle, and containing high-pressure metamorphic rocks. Granitic and silicic-volcanic rocks may have formed above the subduction zones in the accreted parts of the continental plates. Both these continental-margin magmatic rocks and the island-arc complexes display ratios of potassium to silicon that vary across strike and so indicate the directions of dip of the subduction zones.

From the distribution of such indicators of various ages, a history of the continental margins can be deduced. An active subduction zone dipped beneath the Siberian Platform during at least parts of late Precambrian and early, middle, and late Paleozoic time. The late Precambrian and Cambrian history of the Russian side is unclear, but in the Ordovician and Silurian the Russian continental margin was stable, while somewhere offshore an island arc was present whose trench was on the Russian side; the last of the intervening oceanic plate vanished down the subduction zone in about the Early Devonian, and the island arc became part of the continental margin. During the remainder of the Devonian and during the Carboniferous and Early Permian, a subduction zone was present along the margin of the enlarged Russian continent and dipped beneath it.

Each subcontinent grew oceanward as oceanic material was accreted against it, and the subduction zones stepped oceanward correspondingly. The continental magmatic zones migrated oceanward behind the accreting edges of the continental plates, so the tectonic and magmatic progression with time at any one place is analogous to the variations present across the entire orogenic belt at any one time.

Severe right-lateral deformation of the Uralides, the Russian side having moved northward relative to the Siberian side during Mesozoic and early Cenozoic time, is inferred from structural and magnetic-anomaly patterns. The deformation was accomplished by oroclinal folding, strike-slip faulting, and tensional thinning of the crust.

The Uralides may have been continuous in early Mesozoic time with the Ellesmerides of North Greenland and the Canadian Arctic islands. The Cenozoic (and late Mesozoic?) opening of the Arctic Ocean was accomplished by spreading of the Eurasia Basin, and by opening of the Canada Basin behind a counterclockwise-rotating Alaska.

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