The Minarets caldera is a volcano–plutonic complex in the Sierra Nevada, California, that exemplifies complex interactions between volcanism and tectonic deformation in continental-margin arcs. Caldera evolution commenced with emplacement of pre-collapse rhyolitic ash-flow tuff, followed by collapse and deposition of volcanic breccia and rhyodacitic ash-flow tuff. Subsequently, the volcanic rocks were deformed along the regional Bench Canyon shear zone. The caldera centre was then intruded by the resurgent c. 100 Ma steep-sided Shellenbarger granite pluton, which steepened the shear zone foliation. The pluton was overprinted by syn- to post-magmatic ∼NNE–SSW horizontal shortening; the same shortening was documented in several other Late Cretaceous syntectonic plutons in the Sierra Nevada and interpreted to record dextral transpression during convergence of the Farallon and North American plates. To explain the unusual tectonic fabric in the shallow-level Shellenbarger pluton, we develop a general model for strain partitioning in syntectonic magma bodies emplaced at various crustal levels. We propose that shallow intrusions, isolated within stiff crust, may tend to accommodate minor pure shear strain whereas simple shear dominates along weak faults and shear zones. By contrast, a rheological reversal is crossed deeper in the crust and magma bodies become the weakest, simple shear-dominated parts of the system.

Supplementary material: Analytical methods and anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility and U–Th–Pb isotopic data are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3582749

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