Evolution of Continental Lower Crust Recorded By an Exhumed Deep Crustal Intracontinental Shear Zone
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:50 AM
Exposures of deep crustal shear zones are fundamental records of strain localization and the temporal evolution of ductile to brittle behavior as these tectonites were exhumed to the surface. We present results from a decade of field-based research on a deeply exhumed (~35 km-paleodepths) strike-slip shear zone in the western Churchill province of the Canadian Shield. The Grease River shear zone is a >400 km-long and 7 km-thick structure that cuts the Athabasca granulite terrane, North America’s largest exposure of continental lower crust (>20,000 km2). The shear zone is dominated by granulite- to amphibolite-grade L-S and L>S tectonites characterized by penetrative NE-striking steeply-dipping foliations with gently-plunging to sub-horizontal stretching and intersection lineations. These fabrics are locally overprinted by pseudotachylyte and narrow (<500 m-thick) greenschist-grade zones of cataclasite. Dextral kinematics are defined by deflected foliation trajectories, C’ shear bands, and well-developed σ- and δ-type porphyroclasts of Kfs + Pl + Opx + Grt + Hb in felsic to intermediate granulite paragneisses and orthogneisses. Data collected along a well-exposed, nearly 150 km-long segment of the shear zone documents a >100 m.y. episodic record of transpressive to strike-slip intracontinental strain accumulation that coincided with two oppositely convergent orogenies: the east-vergent arc-continent collision of the 1.94-1.90 Ga Taltson orogen and the west-vergent continent-continent collision of the 1.9-1.8 Ga Trans-Hudson orogen. Deformation mechanisms evolved from distributed ductile dynamic recrystallization and grain-size reduction to localized pseudotachylyte development, cataclastic flow, and brittle faulting. Lower crustal behavior during strain localization was dynamic. Melt-weakened mono-cyclic crust was juxtaposed against strong isobarically-cooled poly-cyclic crust along the shear zone at 1.92-1.90 Ga. Brittle-ductile reactivation of the structure during exhumation to middle crustal levels was coincident with fluid-mediated retrograde reactions that facilitated crustal-scale segmentation and transpressive uplift of lower crustal granulites at 1.85 Ga. This study illustrates that lower crustal rheology is spatially and temporally heterogeneous.