Article | Published:

Self-subduction of the Pangaean global plate

Nature Geoscience volume 1, pages 549553 (2008) | Download Citation

Abstract

One of the most striking and rare occurrences in the Earth’s history is the amalgamation of most of the continental lithosphere into one supercontinent. The most recent supercontinent, Pangaea, lasted from 320 to 200 million years ago. Here, we show that after the continental collisions that led to the formation of Pangaea, plate convergence continued in a large, wedge-shaped oceanic tract. We suggest that plate strain at the periphery of the supercontinent eventually resulted in self-subduction of the Pangaean global plate, when the ocean margin of the continent subducted beneath the continental edge at the other end of the same plate. Our scenario results in a stress regime within Pangaea that explains the development of a large fold structure near the apex of the Palaeotethys Ocean, extensive lower crustal heating and continental magmatism at the core of the continent as well as the development of radially arranged continental rifts in more peripheral regions of the plate.

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Acknowledgements

G.G.-A. has been funded by the Spanish Education and Science Ministry Project CGL2006-00902 O.D.R.E. (Oroclines and Delamination: Relations and Effects) and the Mobility Program Grant PR2007-0475; J.B.M. and S.T.J. acknowledge NSERC (Canada) support. This article is a contribution to IGCP 497.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Departamento de Geología, Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca 37008, Spain

    • Gabriel Gutiérrez-Alonso
  2. Departamento de Petrología y Geoquímica, Universidad Complutense, Madrid 28040, Spain

    • Javier Fernández-Suárez
  3. Department of Geology, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvaniya 19010, USA

    • Arlo B. Weil
  4. Department of Earth Sciences, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, B2G 2W5, Canada

    • J. Brendan Murphy
  5. Department of Geological Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701, USA

    • R. Damian Nance
  6. Institute of Geology, University of Oslo, Blindern, Postboks 1047, N-0316 Oslo, Norway

    • Fernando Corfú
  7. School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, PO Box 3055 STN CSC, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W 3P6, Canada

    • Stephen T. Johnston

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Contributions

The primary idea for this paper was coined by G.G.-A and the paper herein is the result of several years of intense research and discussion among all of the authors in an effort to piece together a unifying hypothesis accounting for many observations, geological facts and a variety of data from different areas of the world. All of the authors have contributed equally to the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gabriel Gutiérrez-Alonso.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo250

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