Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Abstract The Palaeo-Tethyan suture separates regions characterized by two fundamentally different tectonic styles in the structure of the Tethysides. North of the suture in Iran, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tadjikistan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and large parts of the Russian Federation and China, orogenic development is characterized by very large subduction-accretion complexes developed since the late Proterozoic. Magmatic arc axes migrated radially outwards from the ‘Old Vertex of Eurasia’ and consolidated the accretionary prisms into a ‘basement complex’ dominated by a pelitic composition. In such orogens, called the ‘Turkic-type’ after the dominant ethnic population of Central Asia, ophiolites are unreliable indicators of sutures, because they are present throughout the ‘basement’ as in-faulted shreds and rarely as nappes. By contrast, south of the Palaeo-Tethyan suture, orogeny was commonly characterized by a Sumatra- or Andean-type continental margin arc (e.g. the Transhimalaya arc) that in places became an island arc by back-arc basin rifting (e.g. the Black Sea behind the Rhodope-Pontide fragment) and later collided with an Atlantic- (as in the Himalaya) or California-type (as in the Alps) continental margin to create Alpine- or Himalayan-type orogenic belts. Turkic-type orogenic belts result from the exaggeration of the Himalayan-type as a result of the subduction of very large oceanic areas that contain great amounts of sediment. They contribute to the enlargement and also possibly the growth of the continental crust which has a composition more silicic than basalt. The Palaeo-Tethyan suture is thus a line across which the rate of continental enlargement by subduction-accretion changed dramatically.
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