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Antarctica — Before and after Gondwana

Antarctica — Before and after Gondwana,10.1016/j.gr.2010.09.003,Gondwana Research,Steven D. Boger

Antarctica — Before and after Gondwana   (Citations: 16)
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The origin of the Antarctic continent can be traced to a relatively small late Archaean cratonic nucleus centred on the Terre Adélie regions of East Antarctica and the Gawler Craton region of South Australia. From the late Archaean to the present, the evolution of the proto-Antarctic continent was remarkably dynamic with quasi-continuous growth driven by accretionary or collisional events, episodically punctuated by periods of crustal extension and rifting. The evolution of the continent can be broken into seven main steps: (1) late Palaeoproterozoic to middle Mesoproterozoic accretion and collision added crust first to the Antarctic nucleus's eastern margin, then to its western margin. These events resulted in the incorporation of the Antarctic nucleus within a single large continent that included all of Proterozoic Australia, a more cryptic Curnamona–Beardsmore Craton and most probably Laurentia. (2) Rifting in the middle to late Mesoproterozoic separated a block of continental crust of unknown dimensions to form an ocean-facing margin, the western edge of which was defined by the ancestral Darling Fault in Western Australia and its unnamed continuation in Antarctica. (3) Inversion of this margin followed shortly and led to the Grenville aged collision and juxtaposition of proto-Antarctica with the Crohn Craton, a continental block of inferred Archaean and Palaeoproterozoic age that now underlies much of central East Antarctica. The Pinjarra Orogen, exposed along the coast of Western Australia, defines the orogenic belt marking this collision. In Antarctica the continuation of this belt has been imaged in sub-ice geophysical datasets and can be inferred from sparse outcrop data and via the widespread dispersal of syn-tectonic zircons. (4) Tectonic quiescence from the latest Mesoproterozoic to the Cryogenian was the forerunner to Ediacaran rifting that separated Laurentia and the majority of the Curnamona–Beardsmore craton from the amalgam of East Antarctica and Australia. The result was the formation of the ancestral Pacific Ocean. (5) The rifting of Laurentia was mirrored by convergence along the opposing margin of the continent. Convergence ultimately sutured material with Indian and African affinities during a series of Ediacaran and Cambrian events related to the formation of Gondwana. These events added much of the crust that today defines the East Antarctic coastline between longitudes 30°W and 100°E. (6) The amalgamation of Gondwana marked a shift in the locus of subduction from between the pre-Gondwana cratons to Gondwana's previously passive Pacific margin. The result was the establishment of the accretionary Terra Australis and Gondwanide orogenies. These were to last from the late Cambrian to the Cretaceous, and together accreted vast sequences of Gondwana derived sediment as well as fragments of older and allochthonous or para-allochthonous continental crust to Gondwana's Pacific margin. (7) The final phases of accretion overlapped with the initiation of extension and somewhat later rifting within Gondwana. Extension started in the late Carboniferous, although continental separation did not begin until the middle Jurassic. Gondwana then fragmented sequentially with Africa–South America, India, Australia and the finally the blocks of New Zealand separating between the middle Jurassic and the late Cretaceous. The late Cretaceous separation of Antarctica and Australia split the original Antarctic nucleus, terminating more than 2.4billion years of shared evolution. The slightly younger separation of New Zealand formed the modern Antarctic continent.
Journal: Gondwana Research - GONDWANA RES , vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 335-371, 2011
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