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The Paleozoic supercontinent cycle and regional tectonics

Ancient plate boundary processes define the first order architecture of consolidated continental crust. Therefore, regional tectonic features allow for the reconstruction of plate tectonic processes. Here we explain the Paleozoic tectonics of various orogens of Europe and both Americas in terms of the Pannotia – Pangea supercontinent cycle. Early Paleozoic separation of Gondwana and Siberia from the eastern and western edges of North America, respectively, is compensated by convergent tectonics at plate boundaries surrounding the East-European Craton, eventually leading to the Scandian orogeny of the Caledonides and the initial formation of the Uralides. The complex opening scenario transformed passive continental margins into active ones and culminated in the Ordovician Taconian and Famatinian accretionary orogenies at the Peri-Laurentian margin and at the South American edge of Gondwana, respectively. The final assembly of western Pangea is characterized by the prolonged and diachronous closure of the Rheic Ocean (~400-270 Ma). Continental collision started within the Variscan - Acadian segment of the Gondwana – Laurussia plate boundary zone. Subsequent zipper-style suturing affected the Gondwanan Mauretanides and the conjugate Laurentian margin from north to south. In the Appalachians, previously accreted island arc terranes were affected by Alleghanian thrusting. The Ouachita – Marathon – Sonora fold-and-thrust belts of southern Laurentia evolved from the transformation of a vast continental shelf area into a collision zone. Slab pull as major plate driving force is sufficient to explain the entire Pannotia – Western Pangea supercontinent cycle for the proposed scenario.


Uwe Kroner1, Tobias Stephan2, Rolf L. Romer3
1TU Bergakademie Freiberg; 2GFZ Potsdam, Germany; 3University of Calgary, Canada
GeoKarlsruhe 2021