The eastern Palmer Land shear zone: a new terrane accretion model for the Mesozoic development of the Antarctic Peninsula

A major ductile fault zone, the eastern Palmer Land shear zone, has been identified east of the spine of the southern Antarctic Peninsula. This shear zone separates newly identified geological domains, and indicates that during Late Jurassic terrane accretion and collision, two and possibly three separate terranes collided, resulting in the Palmer Land orogeny. The orogeny is best developed in eastern Palmer Land and eastern Ellsworth Land. There, shallow-marine sedimentary rocks of the Latady Formation, and a metamorphic and igneous basement complex of possible Lower Palaeozoic to pre-Early Jurassic age, are thrust and folded. This forms an arcuate, east-directed, foreland, fold and thrust belt up to 100 km wide and 750 km long, parallel to the axis of the Antarctic Peninsula. The newly identified Antarctic Peninsula domains include: (1) a parautochthonous Eastern Domain that represents part of the margin of the Gondwana continent, comparable to the Western Province of New Zealand, the Ross Province superterrane of Marie Byrd Land, the Eastern Series of south-central Chile, the Pampa de Agnía and Tepuel rocks of north Patagonia, and the Cordillera Darwin rocks of Tierra del Fuego, (2) a suspect Central Domain that represents an allochthonous, microcontinental, magmatic arc terrane, comparable to the Median Tectonic Zone of New Zealand, the Amundsen Province superterrane of Marie Byrd Land, and Coastal Cordillera of north Chile and (3) a suspect Western Domain, with strong similarities to the Eastern Province of New Zealand, Western Series of south-central Chile, and Chonos metamorphic complex of north Patagonia, that represents either a subduction–accretion complex to the Central Domain, or another separate crustal fragment. Although an allochthonous terrane hypothesis for the Antarctic Peninsula remains to be fully tested, this has much in common with models for the New Zealand and South American parts of the Pacific margin of Gondwana. The identification of a potential allochthonous terrane–continent collision zone allows us to define the edge of the Gondwana continent in the Antarctic Peninsula sector of the supercontinent margin, which has implications for Mesozoic reconstructions of Gondwana.


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Authors: Vaughan, Alan P.M, Storey, Bryan C.

1 January, 2000
Journal of the Geological Society / 157
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