The Grenvillian and Pan-African orogens: World's largest orogenies through geologic time, and their implications on the origin of superplume

S. Rino, Y. Kon, W. Sato, S. Maruyama, M. Santosh, D. Zhao

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    Abstract

    The Neoproterozoic Earth was shaped largely by the Grenvillian and Pan-African orogenies. Out of these, the Grenvillian orogeny has long been regarded to be of minor nature in terms of global-scale orogenic episodes, whereas the Pan-African orogeny has been widely recognized in many continental fragments, although not in major parts of Asia. Based on chronological information in zircons from major river mouths across several important terrains of the globe, we show here that the Grenvillian orogeny contributed significantly to the formation of the continental crust. The time period between 0.6 Ga and 0.8 Ga marked the climax at the dawn of the Pan-African orogeny. Continental crust formed in this period is concentrated in the Pan-African orogenic belts widely across the globe. These regions were widespread over the half hemisphere of the globe, and were subsequently reduced in size after they moved to form Laurasia. The normalized frequency distribution of zircon ages from river-mouth sand over the world clearly demonstrates that Neoproterozoic and (0.9-0.6 Ga) and Grenvillian (1.3-1.0 Ga) peaks define the largest population. This means that extensive subduction, and hence active plate tectonics, might have operated through these periods. The zircon study has also brought to light new regions of the Grenvillian orogenic belts, particularly in the continents which are now covered by thick Phanerozoic sedimentary basins. Based on the new locations of Grenvillian orogens identified in this study, and using the distribution patterns as a marker bed, we propose revised paleogeographic configurations of the Rodinia and Gondwana supercontinents. Our results demonstrate that the Neoproterozoic was the most active period of crust formation in the Earth. The cold basins, formed right after the assembly of Rodinia, exhibit a basin chain fringing the northern periphery of Rodinia, which turned into sites of mantle upwellings and led to the rifting and separation of the supercontinental assembly. The continents then moved northwards after the formation of Gondwana at ca. 540 Ma, and enlarged the northern half of the supercontinent Pangea since 250 Ma. Based on the results, we also evaluate the role of supercontinents in the mechanism of generation of superplumes addressing the enigma that the coldest mantle right above the Core-Mantle Boundary turns to the hottest one over a period of several hundreds of million years. Slab graveyard formed by the Pan-African subduction can be imaged through P-wave tomography. We postulate that the high-velocity anomaly in the D" layer underneath Gondwana has now transformed to the low-V regions to generate the African superplume. The tectonic history of solid Earth in the Phanerozoic seems to be controlled by the slab graveyards formed by the Grenvillian orogeny ca. 1.0 Ga.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)51-72
    Number of pages22
    JournalGondwana Research
    Volume14
    Issue number1-2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2008

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    Keywords

    • Cold basins
    • Crustal growth
    • Gondwana
    • Rodinia
    • Slab graveyard
    • Superplume
    • Zircon chronology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geology

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