The Palaeozoic Variscan oceans revisited

Published on Aug 1, 2017in Gondwana Research6.174
· DOI :10.1016/J.GR.2017.03.005
Wolfgang Franke9
Estimated H-index: 9
(Goethe University Frankfurt),
L. Robin M. Cocks23
Estimated H-index: 23
(Natural History Museum),
Trond H. Torsvik80
Estimated H-index: 80
(University of Oslo)
Abstract Geological evidence, supported by biogeographical data and in accord with palaeomagnetic constraints, indicates that “one ocean” models for the Variscides should be discarded, and confirms, instead, the existence of three Gondwana-derived microcontinents which were involved in the Variscan collision: Avalonia, North Armorica (Franconia and Thuringia subdivided by a failed Vesser Rift), and South Armorica (Central Iberia/Armorica/Bohemia), all divided by small oceans. In addition, parts of south-eastern Europe, including Adria and Apulia, are combined here under the new name of Palaeo-Adria, which was also Peri-Gondwanan in the Early Palaeozoic. Oceanic separations were formed by the break-up of the northern Gondwana margin from the Late Cambrian onwards. Most of the oceans or seaways remained narrow, but – much like the Alpine Cenozoic oceans – gave birth to orogenic belts with HP-UHP metamorphism and extensive allochthons: the Saxo-Thuringian Ocean between North and South Armorica and the Galicia-Moldanubian Ocean between South Armorica and Palaeo-Adria. Only the Rheic Ocean between Avalonia and peri-Gondwana was wide enough to be unambiguously recorded by biogeography and palaeomagnetism, and its north-western arm closed before or during the Emsian in Europe. Ridge subduction under the northernmost part of Armorica in the Emsian created the narrow and short-lived Rheno-Hercynian Ocean. It is that ocean (and not the Rheic) whose opening and closure controlled the evolution of the Rheno-Hercynian foldbelt in south-west Iberia, south-west England, Germany, and Moravia (Czech Republic). Devonian magmatism and sedimentation set within belts of Early Variscan deformation and metamorphism are probably strike-slip-related. The first arrival of flysch on the forelands and/or the age of deformation of foreland sequences constrains the sequential closure of the Variscan seaways (Galicia-Moldanubian in the Givetian; Saxo-Thuringian in the Early Famennian; Rheno-Hercynian in the Tournaisian). Additional Mid- to Late Devonian and (partly) Early Carboniferous magmatism and extension in the Rheno-Hercynian, Saxo-Thuringian and Galicia-Moldanubian basins overlapped with Variscan geodynamics as strictly defined. The Early Carboniferous episode was the start of episodic anorogenic heating which lasted until the Permian and probably relates to Tethys rifting.
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