Anatomy of a Cambrian suture in Gondwana: Pacific-type orogeny in southern India?

M. Santosh, Shigenori Maruyama, Kei Sato

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    402 Citations (Scopus)


    Southern India occupies a central position in the Late Neoproterozoic-Cambrian Gondwana supercontinent assembly. The Proterozoic mosaic of southern India comprises a collage of crustal blocks dissected by Late Neoproterozoic-Cambrian crust-scale shear/suture zones. Among these, the Palghat-Cauvery Suture Zone (PCSZ) has been identified as the trace of the Cambrian suture representing Mozambique Ocean closure during the final phase of amalgamation of the Gondwana supercontinent. Here we propose a model involving Pacific-type orogeny to explain the Neoproterozoic evolution of southern India and its final amalgamation within the Gondwana assembly. Our model envisages an early rifting stage which gave birth to the Mozambique Ocean, followed by the initiation of southward subduction of the oceanic plate beneath a thick tectosphere-bearing Archean Dharwar Craton. Slices of the ocean floor carrying dunite-pyroxenite-gabbro sequence intruded by mafic dykes representing a probable ophiolite suite and invaded by plagiogranite are exposed at Manamedu along the southern part the PCSZ. Evidence for the southward subduction and subsequent northward extrusion are preserved in the PCSZ where the orogenic core carries high-pressure and ultrahigh-temperature metamorphic assemblages with ages corresponding to the Cambrian collisional orogeny. Typical eclogites facies rocks with garnet + omphacite + quartz and diagnostic ultrahigh-temperature assemblages with sapphirine + quartz, spinel + quartz and high alumina orthopyroxene + sillimanite + quartz indicate extreme metamorphism during the subduction-collision process. Eclogites and UHT granulites in the orogenic core define P-T maxima of 1000 °C and up to 20 kbar. The close association of eclogites with ultramafic rocks having abyssal signatures together with linear belts of iron formation and metachert in several localities within the PCSZ probably represents subduction-accretion setting. Fragments of the mantle wedge were brought up through extrusion tectonics within the orogenic core, which now occur as suprasubduction zone/arc assemblages including chromitites, highly depleted dunites, and pyroxene bearing ultramafic assemblages around Salem. Extensive CO2 metasomatism of the ultramafic units generated magnesite deposits such as those around Salem. High temperature ocean floor hydrothermal alteration is also indicated by the occurrence of diopsidite dykes with calcite veining. Thermal metamorphism from the top resulted in the dehydration of the passive margin sediments trapped beneath the orogenic core, releasing copious hydrous fluids which moved upward and caused widespread hydration, as commonly preserved in the Barrovian amphibolite facies units in the PCSZ. The crustal flower structure mapped from PCSZ supports the extrusion model, and the large scale north verging thrusts towards the north of the orogenic core may represent a fold-thrust belt. Towards the south of the PCSZ is the Madurai Block where evidence for extensive magmatism occurs, represented by a number of granitic plutons and igneous charnockite massifs of possible tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG) setting, with ages ranging from ca. 750-560 Ma suggesting a long-lived Neoproterozoic magmatic arc within a > 200 km wide belt. All these magmatic units were subsequently metamorphosed, when the Pacific-type orogeny switched over to collision-type in the Cambrian during the final phase of assembly of the Gondwana supercontinent. One of the most notable aspects is the occurrence of arc magmatic rocks together with high P/T rocks, representing the deeply eroded zone of subduction. The juxtaposition of these contrasting rock units may suggest the root of an evolved Andean-type margin, as in many arc environments the roots of the arc comprise ultramafic/mafic cumulates and the felsic rocks represent the core of the arc. The final phase of the orogeny witnessed the closure of an extensive ocean - the Mozambique Ocean - and the collisional assembly of continental fragments within the Gondwana supercontinent amalgam. The tectonic history of southern India represents a progressive sequence from Pacific-type to collision-type orogeny which finally gave rise to a Himalayan-type Cambrian orogen with characteristic magmatic, metasomatic and metamorphic factories operating in subduction-collision setting.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)321-341
    Number of pages21
    JournalGondwana Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


    • Arc magmatism
    • Collision
    • Extrusion
    • Gondwana
    • Orogeny
    • Pacific-type
    • Plate tectonics
    • Southern India
    • Subduction

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geology


    Dive into the research topics of 'Anatomy of a Cambrian suture in Gondwana: Pacific-type orogeny in southern India?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this