Early Devonian Tectonic Conversion from Contraction to Extension in the Chinese Western Tianshan: A Response to Slab Rollback

Wang XS, Klemd R, Gao J, Jiang T, Zhang X (2021)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2021


Book Volume: 133

Pages Range: 1613-1633

DOI: 10.1130/B35760.1


Extensive angular unconformities that occur across the Tianshan Orogen provide insight into the Paleozoic tectonic evolution of the southwestern Central Asian Orogenic Belt. This study presents new geochronological and geochemical data to unravel the age and origin of a pronounced angular unconformity in the Baluntai domain of the Chinese Western Tianshan. The angular unconformity separates a ductilely deformed metamorphic complex from overlying unmetamorphosed sequences. Detrital zircon age spectra suggest that the sedimentary samples received detritus from both the Precambrian basement and contemporaneous igneous rocks in the Central Tianshan and Yili blocks. The youngest detrital and metamorphic zircons in metasediments from the metamorphic complex reveal that their protoliths were deposited at ca. 419 Ma, and subsequently overprinted by metamorphism and ductile deformation at ca. 409 Ma. Along with ca. 532–407 Ma metavolcanics and foliated intrusions, the metamorphic complex constitutes a diachronous stratigraphic unit deposited during early Cambrian to late Silurian times, rather than a Precambrian basement as previously thought. The youngest detrital zircon age data from siliciclastic samples immediately above the angular unconformity constrain their deposition to ca. 407–397 Ma. In conjunction with a ca. 406 Ma rhyolitic tuff in the lower terrestrial siliciclastic unit and an early Carboniferous paleontological age of carbonates in the upper shallow-marine unit, it is suggested that the overlying unmetamorphosed sequences were accumulated during the early Devonian to the early Carboniferous. Thus, the angular unconformity in the Baluntai domain was formed between ca. 409 and 407 Ma. New and already published geochemical data reveal that the early Paleozoic (ca. 530–410 Ma) and late Paleozoic (ca. 410– 320 Ma) igneous rocks are mainly medium- to high-K calc-alkaline I-type granitoids, which exhibit typical subduction-related geochemical signatures despite contrasting structural features. These geochronological and geochemical results are in accordance with those of similar early Devonian angular unconformities and Paleozoic igneous rocks in the southern Yili Block. The early Paleozoic igneous rocks display highly scattered zircon εHf(t) values, while the late Paleozoic rocks show a progressively increasing trend toward more positive values, attributed to slab rollback of the northward subducting South Tianshan Ocean under the Yili and Central Tianshan blocks. Thus, we propose that the formation of the angular unconformity was caused by tectonic conversion from contraction to extension due to slab rollback during the early Devonian. This study highlights the significance of geological and geochronological investigations of angular unconformities in the context of associated episodic magmatism and slab behavior in order to unravel distinct tectonic processes in the long-lived accretionary evolution of the Chinese Western Tianshan.

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Wang, X.-S., Klemd, R., Gao, J., Jiang, T., & Zhang, X. (2021). Early Devonian Tectonic Conversion from Contraction to Extension in the Chinese Western Tianshan: A Response to Slab Rollback. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 133, 1613-1633. https://dx.doi.org/10.1130/B35760.1


Wang, Xin-Shui, et al. "Early Devonian Tectonic Conversion from Contraction to Extension in the Chinese Western Tianshan: A Response to Slab Rollback." Geological Society of America Bulletin 133 (2021): 1613-1633.

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