Basin formation near the end of the 1.60-1.45 Ga tectonic gap in southern Laurentia: Mesoproterozoic Hess Canyon Group of Arizona and implications for ca. 1.5 Ga supercontinent configurations

Michael F. Doe, James V. Jones, Karl E. Karlstrom, Kristine Thrane, Dirk Frei, George E Gehrels, Mark Pecha

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Detrital zircon data from the upper parts of the Proterozoic Hess Canyon Group of southern Arizona reveal abundant 1600-1488 Ma detrital zircons, which represent ages essentially unknown from southern Laurentia. This basinal succession concordantly overlies a >2-km-thick-section of 1657 ± 3 Ma rhyolite of the Redmond Formation. The rhyolite is intercalated with and hence contemporaneous with the lower parts of the overlying White Ledges Formation, a 300-m-thick orthoquartzite unit at the base of the Hess Canyon Group. These quartzites contain a unimodal detrital zircon age probability distribution with peak ages of 1778, 1767, and 1726 Ma, supporting regional correlation with other ca. 1.65 Ga quartzite exposures in southwestern Laurentia. However, the ~900-m-thick argillaceous Yankee Joe and minimum 600-m-thick quartzite-rich Blackjack Formations contain younger detrital zircons, with peak ages ranging from 1666 to 1494 Ma and a maximum depositional age of 1488 ± 9 Ma. Prominent age peaks at 1582-1515 Ma and 1499-1488 Ma represent detritus that is exotic and not derived from known southern Laurentian sources. The Blackjack Formation is cut by the 1436 ± 2 Ma Ruin Granite, indicating that deposition, deformation, and intrusion occurred between 1488 and 1436 Ma. This basin likely developed before or in the early stages of the 1.45-1.35 Ga intracontinental tectonism in southwestern Laurentia. Our findings necessitate the presence of an ~170 m.y. disconformity within the Hess Canyon Group and document a previously unrecognized episode of Mesoproterozoic basin sedimentation (>1.5 km of section) between 1488 and 1436 Ma in southern Laurentia. This new record helps to fill the 1.60-1.45 Ga magmatic gap in southern Laurentia and supports hypotheses for a long-lived Proterozoic tectonic margin along southern Laurentia from 1.8 to 1.0 Ga. The 1.6-1.5 Ga detrital zircon ages offer important new constraints for ca. 1.5 Ga Nuna reconstructions and for the paleogeography of contemporaneous basins such as the Belt Basin in western Laurentia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-88
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology

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