Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the Shiquanhe area of western Tibet

Paul Kapp, Michael A. Murphy, An Yin, T. Mark Harrison, Lin Ding, Jinghu Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

567 Scopus citations


In the Shiquanhe area of far-western Tibet, mid-Cretaceous strata lie unconformable on ophiolitic melange and Jurassic flysch associated with the Bangong-Nujiang suture zone. On the basis of our mapping and geochronologic studies, we suggest that these Cretaceous strata were shortened by >57% over a north south distance of 50 km during Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary time. The Late Cretaceous Narangjiapo thrust placed Permian strata >20 km over ophiolitic melange and Cretaceous strata. North of the Narangjiapo thrust, >40 km of shortening was accommodated by the Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary south directed Jaggang thrust system that involves Jurassic flysch and Cretaceous strata, and roots into a decollement within ophiolitic melange. The most recent shortening was accommodated to the south of the Narangjiapo thrust, along the north dipping Shiquanhe thrust. The Shiquanhe thrust cuts flat-lying 22.6 ± 0.3 Ma volcanic rocks and underlying folded, Tertiary nonmarine strata in its footwall and was likely active during slip along the Oligocene Gangdese thrust system of southern Tibet. Ophiolitic melange and structurally overlying Jurassic flysch near Shiquanhe are interpreted to represent remnants of a subduction-accretion complex and forearc basin, respectively, that were obducted southward onto the margin of the Lhasa terrane during Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous closure of the Bangong-Nujiang Ocean. Subsequent imbrication of the obducted sheet could have produced the two east-west trending belts of ophiolitic melanges, separated by ∼100 km, in western Tibet. Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary thin-skinned shortening may have been accommodated in the deeper crust by northward underthrusting and duplexing of Lhasa terrane rocks beneath the obducted ophiolitic melange and the Qiangtang terrane to the north.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-1 - 3-23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2003


  • Bangong suture
  • Melange
  • Obduction
  • Plateau formation
  • Tibet
  • Underthrusting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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