Origin of oroclines in Paleozoic Australia: the role of inherited plate boundary irregularities and trench retreat

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Gideon Rosenbaum1, Uri Shaanan2, Derek Hoy2 and Rashed Abdullah2, (1)University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia, (2)University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia
Paleozoic Australia is made of a series of orogenic belts that include the Delamerian, Lachlan and New England orogens, as well as the poorly defined Thomson Orogen. The origin of these belts has been attributed to subduction and accretionary processes along the ~N-S-striking (present coordinates) plate boundary of Gondwana. However, recent studies show that orogenic segments are strongly contorted, thus raising questions about the geodynamic origin of eastern Australia and Paleozoic plate tectonics in general. Results from the New England Orogen revealed that oroclinal bending has occurred simultaneously with basin formation and trench retreat. Geochronological provenance studies of detrital zircon show that these basins were situated in a back-arc position, indicating that back-arc extension may have played a crucial role in oroclinal bending. In addition, geochronological data of detrital zircon show that terranes that were once considered to be exotic were actually derived from local sources. The collective geological evidence suggests that deformation and oroclinal bending were driven by subduction-related processes possibly acting on inherited irregularities in the orientation of the plate boundary. The irregular geometries were further accentuated by trench migration (retreat and advance) that led to subduction segmentation, oroclinal bending, and alternating episodes of contraction and (back-arc) extension. In search of inherited plate boundary irregularities in Paleozoic Australia, we have studied the ~E-W boundary between the Lachlan and Thomson orogens. This lithospheric-scale boundary may reflect the original geometry of the plate boundary, which might have accommodated hundreds of km of dextral offset. This boundary may be part a much larger orogenic curvature, hitherto not recognised, and the development of which may have played a fundamental role in the formation of the smaller-scale oroclines in the Lachlan and New England orogens.