Burma Terrane part of the Trans-Tethyan arc during collision with India according to palaeomagnetic data


Convergence between the Indian and Asian plates has reshaped large parts of Asia, changing regional climate and biodiversity, yet geodynamic models fundamentally diverge on how convergence was accommodated since the India–Asia collision. Here we report palaeomagnetic data from the Burma Terrane, which is at the eastern edge of the collision zone and is famous for its Cretaceous amber biota, to better determine the evolution of the India–Asia collision. The Burma Terrane was part of a Trans-Tethyan island arc and stood at a near-equatorial southern latitude at ~95 Ma, suggesting island endemism for the Burmese amber biota. The Burma Terrane underwent significant clockwise rotation between ~80 and 50 Ma, causing its subduction margin to become hyper-oblique. Subsequently, it was translated northward on the Indian Plate by an exceptional distance of at least 2,000 km along a dextral strike-slip fault system in the east. Our reconstructions are only compatible with geodynamic models involving an initial collision of India with a near-equatorial Trans-Tethyan subduction system at ~60 Ma, followed by a later collision with the Asian margin.

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Fig. 1: Alternative plate reconstructions of India–Asia palaeogeography at 60 Ma.
Fig. 2: Generalized geologic map of Myanmar and neighbouring countries.
Fig. 3: Equal-area projections of interpretable palaeomagnetic results.
Fig. 4: Reconstructions of the Burma Terrane and Asia.

Data availability

The authors declare that all data supporting the findings of this study are available within the main article, its Supplementary Information, Supplementary Dataset 1 (palaeomagnetic mean directions), Supplementary Dataset 2 (palaeomagnetic data per sample) and Supplementary Dataset 3 (40Ar/39Ar data and parameters).


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This research was primarily funded by the European Reseach Council’s consolidator grant MAGIC (Monsoons in Asia caused Greenhouse to Icehouse Cooling) no. 649081 to G.D.-N. We thank C. Kissel for the use of the AGM magnetometer at the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement’s palaeomagnetic laboratory, France. Furthermore, we thank L. Joanny and F. Gouttefangeas for their help with scanning electron microscope data acquisition. We are grateful to P. Cullerier and A. Bernard for their help in the laboratory. We thank E. Advokaat, F. Fluteau, S. Guillot, E. Hallot, C. Rangin, A. Replumaz, M. Searle and D. van Hinsbergen for prolific discussions in the course of this study.

Author information

P.R., A.L. and G.D.-N. conceived the project. J.W., P.R., A.L., G.D.-N., Z.W., F.P., H.H.S., M.K.T. and D.W.A. participated in the sampling. J.W. and P.R. performed the palaeomagnetic analysis. G.R. performed the radiometric analysis. J.W., P.R. and F.B. built the GPlates model. J.W., P.R., A.L. and G.D.-N. wrote the manuscript with contributions from other authors.

Correspondence to Jan Westerweel.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Burma Terrane geological setting and sampling localities, petrologic, 40Ar/39Ar and palaeomagnetic analyses and figures.

Supplementary Dataset 1

Palaeomagnetic mean directions from early Late Cretaceous and late Eocene. If available for a site, geochronological data from this or other studies are also displayed.

Supplementary Dataset 2

Individual palaeomagnetic samples used for calculating the mean directions. Type of demagnetization, demagnetization steps and the result in both in-situ and tilt-corrected coordinates with corresponding errors. All samples are listed by locality and site.

Supplementary Dataset 3

40Ar/39Ar results. Parameters used for calculations and reference sources.

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