Abstract

Precambrian sedimentary successions are difficult to date and correlate. In the Scottish Highlands, potential correlations between the thick, undeformed siliciclastic ‘Torridonian’ successions in the foreland of the Caledonian Orogen and the highly deformed and metamorphosed siliciclastic Moine succession within the Caledonian Orogen have long intrigued geologists. New and detailed mapping of the Neoproterozoic Altnaharra Formation (Morar Group, lowest Moine Supergroup) in Sutherland has discovered low-strain zones exhibiting well-preserved sedimentary features. The formation comprises 3–5 km of coarse, thick-bedded psammite with abundant nested trough and planar cross-bedding bedforms, defining metre-scale channels. Palaeocurrent directions are broadly unimodal to the NNE–ENE. We interpret the Altnaharra Formation as high-energy, braided fluvial deposits. The Altnaharra Formation and the unmetamorphosed, Neoproterozoic Applecross–Aultbea formations (Torridon Group) are similar in terms of lithology, stratigraphical thickness, sedimentology, geochemistry, detrital zircon ages and stratigraphical position on Archaean basement. Depositional age constraints for both successions overlap and are coeval with late Grenvillean orogenic activity. Detrital zircons imply similar source regions from the Grenville Orogen. The Morar and Torridon groups can thus be correlated across the Caledonian Moine Thrust and are best explained as parts of a single, large-scale, orogen-parallel foreland basin to the Grenville Orogen.

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