Closure of the East Paleotethyan Ocean and amalgamation of the Eastern Cimmerian and Southeast Asia continental fragments

Yuejun Wang, Xin Qian, Peter A. Cawood, Huichuan Liu, Qinglai Feng, Guochun Zhao, Yanhua Zhang, Huiying He, Peizhen Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

245 Citations (Scopus)


The Phanerozoic record of Southeast Asia preserves the history of opening and subsequent consumption of the Paleotethyan Ocean and the assembly of continental fragments into Asia as part of the broader-scale reconstruction of Pangea. However, uncertainty remains as to which of the many suture zones in Southeast Asia represents the relict of the main ocean, when final ocean closure occurred, and the assembly history of the Eastern Cimmerian and Southeast Asia continental fragments. Our overview of the geological features of the suture zones, the bounding continental fragments and their magmatic, metamorphic and sedimentary records resolves many of these key issues. The sedimentary, biogeographical, structural, lithological, geochemical and geochronological data from the Changning-Menglian, Inthanon and Bentong-Raub suture zones argue for their linkage with the Longmu Co-Shuanghu suture zone in Central Tibet, and together constitute the main East Paleotethyan Ocean relict. The eastward subduction of the ocean resulted in the development of a series of magmatic arc-back-arc basin and continental fragments in Southeast Asia, including, from west to east, the Lincang-Sukhothai-East Malaya arc, the Jinghong-Nan-Sa Kaeo back-arc basin, the Simao/west Indochina fragment, the Luang Prabang-Loei back-arc basin, the south Indochina fragment, the Wusu and Truong Son back-arc basins, the north Indochina fragment, the Jinshajiang-Ailaoshan-Song Ma branch/back-arc basin and the South China Block. Assembly of these fragments resulted in Indosinian high temperature and high pressure metamorphism and related tectonothermal event. Available data indicate a switch from subduction of the main East Paleotethyan Ocean to the collision of the Sibumasu with Simao/Indochina blocks at ∼. 237. Ma, with subsequent syn- and post-collisional events at ∼. 237-230. Ma and ∼. 230-200. Ma, respectively, along the Changning-Menglian, Inthanon and Bentong-Raub suture zones. The timing of initial-, syn- and post-collision events along the Jinshajiang-Ailaoshan-Song Ma suture zone with its record of back-arc basin closure is at ∼. 247. Ma, ∼. 247-237. Ma and ∼. 237-200. Ma, generally ∼. 10. Ma older than that along the Changning-Menglian, Inthanon and Bentong-Raub suture zones. Our synthesis of all available data enables establishment of a comprehensive geodynamic model for the East Paleotethyan evolution. This model links the spatial-temporal pattern across Southeast Asia into a series of tectonic events including ocean/back-arc basin opening, subduction/closure, subsequent assemblage and orogenic collapse, along with associated igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-230
Number of pages36
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • East Paleotethyan Ocean
  • Eastern Cimmerian
  • Main suture boundaries
  • Oceanic closure and consumption
  • Southeast Asia continental fragments
  • Triassic assemblage

Cite this