Subduction erosion is thought to be a common process in active continental margins that removes upper-plate material and transfers it to the subduction channel. The North Qaidam ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic belt of NW China was formed by subduction of the Qaidam Block beneath the Quanji Block in the early Paleozoic. In this study, we found gneisses and eclogites in the Chachahe unit of the North Qaidam ultrahigh-pressure metamorphic belt that recorded 2.39−2.28 Ga magmatism and 1.93−1.87 Ga amphibolite-facies metamorphism prior to the early Paleozoic (452−439 Ma) eclogite-facies metamorphism. The Paleoproterozoic tectono-thermal history recorded by these gneisses and eclogites is distinct from that of the Qaidam Block but similar to that of the Quanji Block. The rock assemblages, field occurrences, geochemical characteristics, and zircon Lu-Hf isotopic compositions of these rocks closely resemble those of gneisses and enclosed mafic enclaves in the Delingha Complex in the basement of the Quanji Block and the mafic dikes intruded within it. This evidence clearly illustrates that the protoliths of gneisses and eclogites in the Chachahe unit were from the basement of the upper Quanji Block rather than the subducted Qaidam Block. Further considering the spatial location of the Chachahe unit, as well as similarities in early Paleozoic metamorphic ages, peak metamorphic conditions, and clockwise P-T paths between rocks in the Chachahe unit and those that originated from the Qaidam Block, we propose that the bottom basement of the Quanji Block was scraped off by basal erosion during the initiation of continental subduction, transported to mantle depth, and then exhumed with other slices from the subducted slab.

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