Abstract

An intriguing and contradictory scenario has recently developed in the Caledonides of the British Isles concerning the ages of deposition and deformation of the Neoproterozoic Dalradian Supergroup. Isotopic evidence, although limited, suggests that the lower parts of the sequence may have been deposited and undergone Precambrian deformation (i.e. pre-600 Ma) prior to deposition of the upper parts of the sequence (i.e. post-600 Ma). Given these existing constraints, it is clear that a major break (or breaks) would be required in the intervening sequence to maintain a coherent tectonostratigraphy. We present evidence for such an unconformity preserved at the base of the Easdale Subgroup in NW Ireland. Reworked clasts that contain a pre-existing tectonometamophic history are identified within a conglomerate that lies along this regionally recognized boundary. The underlying sequence also exhibits pre-existing deformational fabrics that display erosional truncation at the base of the conglomerates. These relationships, together with significant erosion and excision of the footwall sequence, and extensive thickness and facies variations in the hanging-wall units, imply that a major tectonic unconformity exists within this succession. As the conglomerate lies stratigraphically below Precambrian (c. 600 Ma) lavas, the structural fabrics contained within the clasts and the underlying sequence must also be of Precambrian age and totally unrelated to the well-established Early Palaeozoic (Caledonian) orogenic deformation observed in the younger parts of the sequence. The Dalradian Supergroup, as defined, may actually comprise (at least) two distinct tectonostratigraphic sequences.

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