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Shaping the northern Gondwana margin before the Variscan orogeny: large-scale geodynamic processes and paleogeography

The Cadomian accretionary orogeny at the end of Neproterozoic to early Cambrian was one of the principal crustal growth events in Europe, as indicated by a number and widespread distribution of Cadomian basement units within the Variscan and Alpine orogenic belts. Although the evolution of the Avalonian–Cadomian active-margin of northern Gondwana has been well established, geodynamic causes of its collapse and processes of its transition to a passive margin are significantly less understood. The particularly intriguing issues, which have a significant impact on interpretations of paleogeography and course of the subsequent Variscan orogeny, include: (1) how and when the Cadomian orogeny ended, (2) what was the provenance of the Avalonian, Cadomian, and other terranes, i.e., where they started their journey from Gondwana to Pangea, (3) how was the Cambro–Ordovician rifting phase expressed along the former active margin and what was its exact timing, duration, style, and magnitude, and (4) how far east reached the Rheic Ocean rift system and what was the nature of its eastern termination. Integrated geochronological and tectonic information suggest that (i) the active-to-passive-margin transition was step-wise, protracted over Cambrian and early Ordovician, (ii) strongly controlled by tectonic inheritance whereby an inherited suture in the Avalonian ribbon terrane facilitated complete rifting and rift–drift transition while the Cadomian terranes remained attached to Gondwana, and (iii) magmatism may have been an important geodynamic driver of rifting during at least the initial stages, before being overridden by the slab pull force of the subducting Iapetus Ocean.


Jiří Žák1
1Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Czech Republic
GeoBerlin 2023