Few modern sediment dispersal pathways predate the breakup of Pangea. This suggests that river lifespan can be controlled by continental assembly and dispersal cycles, with the longest-lived river systems present during supercontinent regimes. Based on the strikingly similar age spectra and Hf isotopic array extracted from Paleozoic to early Mesozoic sedimentary sequences from the Paleo-Tethyan margin basins, we argue that a long-lived supercontinental- scale system, with headwaters originating in Antarctica, flowed northward to finally debouch on the margin with the Paleo-Tethys Ocean. Channel-belt thickness scaling relationships, which provide an estimate of drainage area, support the notion that this was a supercontinental-scale system. Sediments were eroded from Proterozoic orogenic belts and flanked resistant kernels of Archean cratons. Remnants of this system, which can still be traced today as topographic lows, controlled post-breakup drainage patterns in Gondwanan fragments in Western Australia. We conclude that supercontinental regimes allow sediment dispersal systems to be long-lived, as they provide both an abundant sediment supply, due to erosion of large-scale, collision-related internal mountain systems, and a stable, large-scale configuration that lasts until breakup.
- Detrital zircon