Latest Neoproterozoic basin inversion of the Beardmore Group, central Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica

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Abstract

Structural and age relationships in Beardmore Group rocks in the central Transantarctic Mountains of Antarctica indicate that they experienced a single deformation in latest Neoproterozoic to early Paleozoic time. New structural data contrast with earlier suggestions that Beardmore rocks record two orogenic deformations, one of the early Paleozoic Ross orogeny and a distinct earlier tectonic event of presumed Neoproterozoic age referred to as the Beardmore orogeny. In the Nimrod Glacier area, Beardmore metasedimentary rocks contain only a single set of geometrically related regional structures associated with the development of upright, large- and small-scale flexural-slip folds. Deformation of Beardmore strata involved west directed contraction of modest regional strain at relatively high crustal levels. Existing ages of detrital zircons from the Cobham and Goldie formations constrain Beardmore Group deposition to be younger than ∼600 Ma. This is significantly younger than previous age estimates and suggests that Beardmore deposition may be closely linked to a latest Neoproterozoic East Antarctic rift margin. The lack of structural evidence for polyphase deformation and the relatively young depositional age for the Beardmore Group thus raises the question of a temporally and/or tectonically unique Beardmore orogeny. Here I suggest that Beardmore shortening may be related to tectonic inversion of East Antarctic marginal-basin strata because of localized compression during proto-Pacific seafloor spreading. Basin inversion is but one stage in a protracted Ross tectonic cycle of rifting, tectonic inversion, subduction initiation, and development of a mature convergent continental margin during latest Neoproterozoic and early Paleozoic time. The term "Beardmore orogeny" has little meaning as an event of orogenic status, and it should be abandoned. Recognition of this latest Neoproterozoic history reinforces the view that the broader Ross orogeny was not a single event but rather was a long-lived postrifting tectonic process along the East Antarctic margin of Gondwanaland.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)682-701
Number of pages20
JournalTectonics
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1997

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