Cretaceous magmatism in the Antarctic Peninsula and its tectonic implications

Periods of cessation, resumption and enhanced arc activity are recorded in the Cretaceous igneous rocks of the Antarctic Peninsula. We present new geochronological (LA-ICP-MS zircon U-Pb) analyses of 36 intrusive and volcanic Cretaceous rocks, along with LA-ICP-MS apatite U-Pb analyses (a medium-temperature thermochronometer) of 28 Triassic–Cretaceous igneous rocks of the Antarctic Peninsula. These are complemented by new zircon Hf isotope data along with whole-rock geochemistry and isotope (Nd, Sr and Pb) data. Our results indicate that the Cretaceous igneous rocks of the Antarctic Peninsula have geochemical signatures consistent with a continental arc setting and were formed during the interval ∼140–79 Ma, while the main peak of magmatism occurred during ∼118–110 Ma. Trends in εHft (zircon) combined with elevated heat flow that remagnetised rocks and reset apatite U-Pb ages suggests that Cretaceous magmatism formed within a prevailing extensional setting that was punctuated by periods of compression. A noteworthy compressive period probably occurred during ∼147–128 Ma, triggered by the westward migration of South America during opening of the South Atlantic Ocean. Cretaceous arc rocks that crystallised during ∼140–100 Ma define a belt that extends from southeastern Palmer Land to the west coast of Graham Land. This geographic distribution could be explained by (i) a flat slab with east-dipping subduction of the Phoenix Plate, or (ii) west-dipping subduction of the lithosphere of the Weddell Sea, or (iii) an allochthonous origin for the rocks of Alexander Island. A better understanding of the geological history of the pre-Cretaceous rocks of Alexander Island and the inaccessible area of the southern Weddell Sea is required.


Publication status:
Authors: Bastias, Joaquin, Spikings, Richard, Riley, Teal ORCIDORCID record for Teal Riley, Chew, David, Grunow, Anne, Ulianov, Alexey, Chiaradia, Massimo, Burton-Johnson, Alex ORCIDORCID record for Alex Burton-Johnson

On this site: Alex Burton-Johnson, Teal Riley
6 January, 2023
Journal of the Geological Society / 180
Link to published article: