Cenozoic anatexis and exhumation of Tethyan Sequence rocks in the Xiao Gurla Range, Southwest Tibet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


In order to advance our understanding of the suturing process between continental landmasses, a geologic and geochronologic investigation was undertaken just south of the India-Asia suture in southwestern Tibet. The focus of this study, the Xiao Gurla Range, is located near the southeastern terminus of the active, right-lateral strike-slip Karakoram fault in southwestern Tibet. The range exposes metasandstone, phyllite, schist (locally of sillimanite facies), calc-gneiss and marble, paragneiss (± pyroxene), quartzite, metagranite, and variably deformed leucogranite. These metamorphic rocks are exposed in the footwall of a domal, top-to-the-west low-angle normal (detachment) fault, structurally beneath Neogene-Quaternary basin fill and serpentinized ultramafic rocks of the Kiogar-Jungbwa ophiolite. The detachment is interpreted to be the northeastern continuation of the Gurla Mandhata detachment fault system that bounds metamorphic rocks of the Gurla Mandhata Range ~. 60. km to the southwest. U-Pb geochronology on five detrital zircon samples of schist, phyllite, and quartzite yielded maximum depositional ages that range from 644-363. Ma and age probability distributions that are more similar to Tethyan sequence rocks than Lesser Himalayan sequence rocks. A felsic gneiss yielded a metamorphic zircon age of 35.3 ± 0.8. Ma with a significant population of early Paleozoic xenocrystic core ages. The gneiss is interpreted to be the metamorphosed equivalent of the Cambro-Ordovician gneiss that is exposed near the top of the Greater Himalayan sequence. Leucogranitic bodies intruding metasedimentary footwall rocks yielded two distinct U-Pb zircon ages of ~. 23. Ma and ~. 15. Ma. Locally, rocks exposed in the hanging wall of this fault and of the southward-dipping, northward-verging Great Counter thrust to the north consist of serpentinite-bearing mélange and conglomerate of inferred Paleogene age dominated by carbonate clasts. The mélange is intruded by a 44. Ma granite and the stratigraphically highest conglomerate unit yielded detrital zircon U-Pb ages similar to Tethyan sequence rocks. We attribute the middle Eocene magmatism south of the suture to break-off of the Neo-Tethyan oceanic slab. In addition, our observations are consistent with the late Eocene shortening and crustal thickening within the Tethyan Himalayan sequence, early-middle Miocene leucogranite emplacement being related to underthrusting and melting of the Greater and possibly Lesser Himalayan sequences, and late Miocene arc-parallel extension in the hinterland of the southward propagating Himalayan thrust belt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-40
Number of pages13
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Mar 25 2011


  • Gurla Mandhata
  • India-Asia suture
  • Leucogranite
  • Tethyan Himalayan sequence
  • U-Pb zircon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Cenozoic anatexis and exhumation of Tethyan Sequence rocks in the Xiao Gurla Range, Southwest Tibet'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this