Thermochronological data from the Kinabalu granite, emplaced between c. 7.2 and 7.8 Ma, provide a unique record of northern Borneo’s exhumation during the Neogene. Biotite 40Ar/39Ar ages (c. 7.32–7.63 Ma) record rapid cooling of the granite in the Late Miocene as it equilibrated with ambient crustal temperatures. Zircon fission-track ages (c. 6.6–5.8 Ma) and apatite (U–Th–Sm)/He ages (central age c. 5.5 Ma) indicate rapid cooling during the Late Miocene–Early Pliocene. This cooling reflects exhumation of the granite, uplift and erosion bringing it closer to the Earth’s surface. Thermochronological age versus elevation relationships suggest exhumation rates of more than 7 mm a−1 during the latest Miocene and Early Pliocene. Neither the emplacement of the Kinabalu granite nor its exhumation is related to the Sabah orogeny, which terminated in the Early Miocene. Instead, granite magmatism was caused by extension related to subduction rollback of the Sulu Arc, and Mio-Pliocene exhumation of the Kinabalu granite was driven either by lithospheric delamination or break-off of a subducted slab beneath Sabah. Plio-Pleistocene tectonism offshore and onshore northern Borneo reflects continuing large-scale gravity-driven tectonics in the region.

Supplementary material:

Full 40Ar/39Ar, fission-track and (U–Th–Sm)/He analytical data and 40Ar/39Ar age spectra plots can be found at www.geolsoc.org.uk/SUP18613.

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