A Carboniferous high-pressure klippe in the western Acatlán Complex of southern México

implications for the tectonothermal development and palaeogeography of Pangea

Mario A. Ramos-Arias*, J. Duncan Keppie, James K W Lee, Amabel Ortega-Rivera

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    High-pressure (HP) rocks are critical for palinspastic restorations because they mark inferred subducted/extruded oceanic crust; knowledge of their geometric, geodynamic, and age relationships provide essential constraints on palaeogeographic reconstructions. The westernmost HP belt (Ixcamilpa) in the Acatlán Complex of southern Mexico has been inferred to be a mid-Late Ordovician backarc basin on the southern Iapetan margin that was subducted beneath eastern Laurentia and extruded up the subduction zone during the Early Silurian. Re-examination of Ixcamilpa HP rocks has revealed that they comprise lower Palaeozoic rift-passive margin protoliths and occur in a W-vergent klippe (not a suture) formed during polyphase deformation. Peak metamorphic mineral assemblages of blueschist-amphibole eclogite facies underwent retrogression through epidote amphibolite to greenschist facies. 40Ar/ 39Ar dating of various rocks yielded plateau ages of 344-339 Ma for calcic amphibole, 318 ± 4 Ma for glaucophane, and 329-325 ± 2 Ma for muscovite (excess argon), which clearly indicate a Carboniferous tectonothermal event. We interpret the 20 million years range in amphibole ages as reflecting progressive unroofing. The terminal stage of progressive thrusting placed the HP rocks above the middle Mississippian Zumpango Unit, during which a single penetrative sub-greenschist fabric was produced. Subsequent Permian or Laramide deformation refolded all the rocks about NE-trending upright folds. We postulate that the root zone of the HP nappe lies to the east in the median HP belt, which has a structure consistent with an extrusion zone. Inasmuch as similar units of the Acatlán Complex bound this HP root zone on either side, it is inferred to have been extruded into the upper plate above the subduction zone, and thus is not an oceanic suture. Our new data provide constraints for a Carboniferous palaeogeographic reconstruction, whereby subduction erosion of passive margin rocks took place along the western margin of Pangea and were subsequently extruded into the upper (Acatlán) plate.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)779-798
    Number of pages20
    JournalInternational Geology Review
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012


    • Acatlán Complex
    • amalgamation of Pangea
    • blueschist facies
    • Carboniferous
    • high-pressure
    • klippe

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