Abstract

New paleomagnetic data have become available in the past 5 yr that require modifications in previously published paleogeographic reconstructions for the Silurian and Devonian. In this paper, the new paleopoles are compared to published paleogeographic models based on paleoclimatologic and biogeographic data. The data from the three fields of paleomagnetism, paleoclimatology, and biogeography are generally in excellent agreement, and an internally consistent paleogeographic evolutionary picture of the interactions between North America, Gondwana, and intervening displaced terranes is emerging.During the interval of the Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian, North America stayed in equatorial paleoposition, while rotating counter-clockwise. The northwest African part of Gondwana was in high southerly latitudes during the Late Ordovician and was fringed by peri-Gondwanide terranes, such as southern Europe (Armorica) and Avalonian basement blocks now found in eastern Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, the Boston Basin, the Appalachian Piedmont, and northern Florida. Subsequently, Gondwana and the peri-Gondwanide terranes displayed rapid drift with respect to the pole. This drift translates into the following pattern of movement for northwest Africa. During the latest Ordovician-Early Silurian, this area moved rapidly northward from polar to subtropical latitudes, followed by equally rapid southward motion from subtropical to intermediate (about 50°S) paleolatitudes during the Late Silurian-Middle Devonian. It is likely that significant east-to-west motion accompanied the latter shift in paleolatitudes, with the Caledonian-Acadian orogeny the result of Silurian to Early Devonian convergence and collision between Gondwana and North America. This collision sandwiched several of the intervening displaced terranes between Gondwana and North America. Subsequent to this collision, Gondwana was separated in the Late Devonian by a medium-width ocean from North America and the Avalonian and southern European blocks which were left behind adjacent to North America. This new ocean closed during the Carboniferous, and the resulting convergence and collision were the cause of the Hercynian-Alleghanian orogenic belt. Problems remaining for future research, besides the further gathering of reliable paleopoles, involve the uncertain pre-Devonian position of the southern British Isles in this scenario and the very rapid velocity with respect to the pole that results from the rapid Late Ordovician-Silurian apparent polar wander for Gondwana.

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