Hydration, melt production and rheological weakening within an intracontinental gneiss dome

Jan Varga*, Tom Raimondo, Martin Hand, Stacey Curtis, Nathan Daczko

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    The Entia Gneiss Complex (EGC) in central Australia represents a deeply exhumed Paleoproterozoic basement terrane that underwent fluid-catalysed transformation culminating in the formation of a migmatitic gneiss dome during the 450–300 Ma intracontinental Alice Springs Orogeny (ASO). Foremost amongst the changes the EGC experienced during this event was the regional-scale conversion of nominally anhydrous granulite and igneous crust to hydrous amphibolite facies migmatite, together with the emplacement of locally voluminous mica- bearing pegmatite swarms. LA–ICP–MS U–Pb dating of zircon, monazite and xenotime demonstrates that pegmatite emplacement dominantly occurred late in the Alice Springs Orogeny (c. 360–300 Ma). The oldest generation of pegmatites are transposed into the regional Palaeozoic gneissic fabric and formed at c. 1770 Ma, indicating they belong to protolith rocks of the EGC. Three subsequent generations of pegmatite have ages that range between 360 and 300 Ma. The oldest of these is parallel to the migmatitic gneissic fabric and dated at c. 360 Ma, whereas the younger two generations are largely undeformed, discordant and intruded throughout the period c. 350–300 Ma. The capability for a comparatively dry intracratonic orogenic core to repeatedly produce melt over an interval of c. 60 Myr requires explanation. We suggest crustal-scale duplex development during the latter stages of the ASO resulted in the juxtaposition of dry and mechanically strong Paleoproterozoic basement over deeply buried Neoproterozoic–Cambrian sedimentary sequences. Fluid derived from the metamorphic dehydration of these sequences led to hydration, partial melting and rheological weakening of the basement slab. Prior to its hydration at c. 360 Ma, the EGC was metamorphically unresponsive, accounting for its comparatively late timing of deformation and partial melting compared to the overall history of the Alice Springs Orogeny. The development of the crustal-scale duplex system, combined with hydrous melting of the low-density basement slab beneath high-density supracrustal rocks, resulted in a thermomechanically unstable architecture that facilitated the formation of an orogen-scale gneiss dome during the waning stages of intracontinental orogenesis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number106872
    Pages (from-to)1-22
    Number of pages22
    Early online date20 Sept 2022
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


    • Pegmatite
    • Gneiss dome
    • Fluid
    • Melt
    • Deformation
    • Geochronology
    • Intracontinental orogeny


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