Tectonic setting of the South China Block in the early Paleozoic: Resolving intracontinental and ocean closure models from detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology

Yuejun Wang, Feifei Zhang, Weiming Fan, Guowei Zhang, Shiyue Chen, Peter A. Cawood, Aimei Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

339 Citations (Scopus)


Zircon U-Pb geochronological data on over 900 zircon grains for Cambrian to Silurian sandstone samples from the South China Block constrain the pre-Devonian tectonic setting of, and the interrelationships between, the constituent Cathaysia and Yangtze blocks. Zircons range in age from 3335 to 465 Ma. Analyses from the Cathaysia sandstone samples yield major age clusters at ∼2560, ∼1850, ∼1000, and 890-760 Ma. Zircons from the eastern and central Yangtze sandstone samples show a similar age distribution with clusters at ∼2550, ∼1860, ∼1100, and ∼860-780 Ma. A minor peak at around 1450 Ma is also observed in the Cathaysia and central Yangtze age spectra, and a peak at ∼490 Ma represents magmatic zircons from Middle Ordovician sandstone in the eastern Yangtze and Cathaysia blocks. The Cambrian and Ordovician strata show a transition from a carbonate-dominated succession in the central Yangtze Block, to an interstratified carbonate-siliciclastic succession in the eastern Yangtze Block, to a neritic siliciclastic succession in the Cathaysia Block. Paleocurrent data across this succession consistently indicate directions toward the W-NNW, from the Cathaysia Block to the Yangtze Block. Our data, together with other geological constraints, suggest that the Cathaysia Block constitutes a fragment on the northern margin of east Gondwana and both Cathaysia and east Gondwana constituted the source for the analyzed early Paleozoic samples. The similar age spectra for the Cambrian to Silurian sandstone samples from the Yangtze and Cathaysia blocks argue against the independent development and spatial separation of these blocks in the early Paleozoic but rather suggest that the sandstone units accumulated in an intracontinental basin that spanned both blocks. Subsequent basin inversion and Kwangsian orogenesis possibly at 400-430 Ma also occurred in an intracontinental setting probably in response to the interaction of the South China Block with the Australian-Indian margin of east Gondwana.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberTC6020
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes

Cite this