New Timing and Depth Constraints for the Catalina Metamorphic Core Complex, Southeast Arizona

Mihai N. Ducea, Antoine Triantafyllou, Jordan Krcmaric

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The Santa Catalina-Tortolita-Rincon Mountains of Southeast Arizona are a classic metamorphic core complex (MCC) and represent footwall exposures of crustal rocks exhumed by a detachment system. This study presents new evidence for the formation of the majority of ductile deformation during the Eocene (~46 Ma), synchronous with the emplacement of the regionally significant Wilderness Sills Suite (57–45 Ma). The evidence is provided by Eocene U-Pb ages of syn- to late kinematic dikes emplaced in the principal ductile mylonitic fabric of the Catalina forerange, earlier than the brittle normal fault system and the formation of Tucson basin beginning with the latest Oligocene. Well-documented shear sense indicators may not reflect extension at that time (Eocene), but more likely the direction of crustal flow now rotated during later extension. Muscovite-plagioclase Rb-Sr isochron ages of three mylonitic rocks are all clustered around 34 Ma, which is inferred to be the last age when these rocks were being deformed under ductile conditions following the emplacement of the Wilderness Sills Suite and various related dikes. Biotite-plagioclase Rb-Sr ages on the same rocks demonstrate that the section cooled below ~300°C at 25–26 Ma during the development of normal faulting. Normal faulting was synchronous with the emplacement of the Catalina Intrusive Suite. New U-Pb age results for Catalina Intrusive Suite indicate a combined mean age of 24.9 Ma. Chemical compositions of hornblende-plagioclase pairs were obtained on six Catalina Intrusive Suite samples; depth estimates for the emplacement of the Catalina Intrusive Suite average of about 6 km. These results suggest that the exposed Catalina ductile detachment system was at about 5 km beneath the surface at 25 Ma. These new data bring new light into the development of this core complex and suggest that the similarity in orientations of principal ductile and brittle fabrics at the Catalina MCC locality are coincidental. Neither was the principal ductile fabric developed during the low-angle normal faulting of the latest Oligocene nor was this exposed section a midcrustal one at that time. Transient, pluton emplacement-enhanced, and extension-related ductile deformation at shallow crustal levels operated locally at ~25 Ma but that does not account for the development of the majority of the Catalina MCC mylonites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020TC006383
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Catalina Mountains
  • basin and range
  • geochronology
  • metamorphic core complex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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