Possible Jurassic age for part of Rakaia Terrane: implications for tectonic development of the Torlesse accretionary prism
Kamp, P. J. J. (2001). Possible Jurassic age for part of Rakaia Terrane: implications for tectonic development of the Torlesse accretionary prism. New Zealand Journal of Geology & Geophysics, 44, 185-203.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/3488
Greywacke sandstone and argillite beds comprising Rakaia Terrane (Torlesse Complex) in mid Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand, are widely regarded as Late Triassic (Norian) in age based on the occurrence of Torlessia trace fossils, Monotis, and other taxa. This paleontological age assignment is tested using published 40Ar/39Ar mica and U-Pb zircon ages for these rocks and published and new zircon fission track (FT) ages. The youngest U-Pb zircon ages in the Rakaia Terrane rocks in mid Canterbury are Norian, whereas 10-20% of the 40Ar/39Ar muscovite ages are younger than Norian. Numerical modelling of these mica ages shows that they cannot have originated from partial thermal overprinting in the Torlesse prism if the thermal maximum was short-lived and early in the prism history (210-190 Ma), as commonly inferred for these rocks. The young component of mica ages could, however, be explained by extended residence (200-100 Ma) at 265-290deg.C in the prism. Early Jurassic (c. 189 Ma) zircon FT ages for sandstone beds from Arthur's Pass, the Rakaia valley, and the Hermitage (Mt Cook) are interpreted not to have experienced maximum temperatures above 210deg.C, and therefore cannot have been reduced as a result of partial annealing in the Torlesse prism. This is based on identification of a fossil Cretaceous, zircon FT, partial annealing zone in low-grade schists to the west, and the characteristics of the age data. The Early Jurassic zircon FT ages and the young component of 40Ar/39Ar mica ages are regarded therefore as detrital ages reflecting cooling in the source area, and constrain the maximum depositional age of parts of the Rakaia Terrane in mid Canterbury. The zircon FT data also show the initiation (c. 100 Ma) of marked and widespread Late Cretaceous cooling of Rakaia Terrane throughout Canterbury, which is attributed to uplift and erosion of inboard parts of the Torlesse prism due to continuing subduction accretion at its toe. The critical wedge concept is proposed as a new framework for investigating the development of the Torlesse Complex. The Rakaia Terrane may have formed the core of an accretionary wedge imbricated against the New Zealand margin during the Middle or Late Jurassic. Late Jurassic nonmarine sediments (e.g., Clent Hills Formation) accumulated upon the inner parts of the prism as it enlarged, emerged, and continued to be imbricated. Exhumation of Otago Schist from c. 135 Ma may mark the development of a balance (steady state) between sediments entering the prism at the toe and material exiting at the inboard margin. The enlargement of the area of exhumation to all of Canterbury from c. 100 Ma may reflect a dynamic response to widening of the prism through the accretion of Cretaceous sediments. The model of a dynamic critical wedge may help to explain the various expressions of the Rangitata Orogeny.
This article has been published in the journal: New Zealand Journal of Geology & Geophysics. ©2001 The Royal Society of New Zealand.