Detrital-zircon geochronology of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks in the Hangay-Hentey basin, north-central Mongolia: Implications for the tectonic evolution of the Mongol-Okhotsk Ocean in central Asia

Thomas K. Kelty, An Yin, Batulzii Dash, George E. Gehrels, Angela E. Ribeiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

150 Scopus citations


Understanding the development of the Central Asian Orogenic System (CAOS), which is the largest Phanerozoic accretionary orogen in the world, is critical to the determination of continental growth mechanisms and geological history of central Asia. A key to unraveling its geological history is to ascertain the origin and tectonic setting of the large flysch complexes that dominate the CAOS. These complexes have been variably interpreted as deep-marine deposits that were accreted onto a long-evolving arc against large continents to form a mega-accretionary complex or sediments trapped in back-arc to fore-arc basins within oceanic island-arc systems far from continents. To differentiate the above models we conducted U-Pb geochronological analyses of detrital-zircon grains from turbidites in the composite Hangay-Hentey basin of central Mongolia. This basin was divided by a Cenozoic fault system into the western and eastern sub-basins: the Hangay Basin in the west and Hentey basin in the east. This study focuses on the Hentey basin and indicates two groups of samples within this basin: (1) a southern group that were deposited after the earliest Carboniferous (∼ 339 Ma to 354 Ma) and a northern group that were deposited after the Cambrian to Neoproterozoic (∼ 504 Ma to 605 Ma). The samples from the northern part of the basin consistently contain Paleoproterozoic and Archean zircon grains that may have been derived from the Tuva-Mongol massif and/or the Siberian craton. In contrast, samples from the southern part of the basin contain only a minor component of early Paleozoic to Neoproterozoic zircon grains, which were derived from the crystalline basement bounding the Hangay-Hentey basin. Integrating all the age results from this study, we suggest that the Hangay-Hentey basin was developed between an island-arc system with a Neoproterozoic basement in the south and an Andean continental-margin arc in the north. The initiation of the southern arc occurred at or after the early Carboniferous, allowing accumulation of a flysch complex in a long-evolving accretionary complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-311
Number of pages22
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Apr 28 2008



  • Central Asian Orogenic Belt
  • Central Asian Orogenic System
  • Detrital-zircon geochronology
  • Hangay-Hentey basin
  • Mongol-Okhotsk Ocean

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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