The Alexander terrane is an unusual tectonic fragment in the North American Cordillera in that it contains a long and very complete stratigraphic record, including sedimentary or volcanic rocks representing every period and nearly every epoch between Neoproterozoic and Late Triassic time. The terrane is also unusual in that the southern portion of the terrane experienced arc-type magmatism during Neoproterozoic–early Paleozoic time, whereas the northern portion of the terrane consists mainly of Paleozoic shelf-facies strata. This long and diverse history provides opportunities to reconstruct the evolution and displacement history of the terrane, and specifically test the prevailing interpretation that the terrane formed in the paleo-Arctic realm.
This study presents U-Pb geochronologic data and Hf isotopic information for detrital zircons from arc-type rocks in the southern portion of the terrane. Information has been generated from seven samples of Ordovician through Devonian age, complementing the information available from previous studies of Ordovician through Triassic strata. Together, these data sets yield a robust record of the magmatic history of the southern Alexander terrane, with dominant age groups of 640–550 Ma, 490–400 Ma, 380–340 Ma, and 310–275 Ma (dominant ages of 579, 441, 361, and 293 Ma). There are few pre–640 Ma grains in any of the samples. Hf isotope compositions of the detrital zircons are exceptionally juvenile, with most epsilon Hf(t) values between +15 and +5.
Collectively, the available geologic, U-Pb geochronologic, and Hf isotopic evidence suggests that the southern Alexander terrane formed within a juvenile Neoproterozoic–early Paleozoic arc system, with little continental influence, whereas the northern portion of the terrane formed in proximity to a continental landmass that experienced similar Neoproterozoic–early Paleozoic ages of continental-affinity magmatism. Our data are consistent with previous suggestions that the Alexander terrane resided in the paleo-Arctic realm during early Paleozoic time, with the northern portion of the terrane adjacent to Baltica and the Caledonides, and the southern portion of the terrane forming further offshore as a juvenile north-facing oceanic arc.
- Received 28 June 2015.
- Revision received 21 October 2015.
- Accepted 4 November 2015.
- © 2015 Geological Society of America