40Ar–39Ar laser dating of ductile shear zones from central Corsica (France): Evidence of Alpine (middle to late Eocene) syn-burial shearing in Variscan granitoids

Gianfranco Di Vincenzo, Antonietta Grande, Giacomo Prosser, William Cavazza, Peter G. DeCelles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The island of Corsica (France) plays a central role in any reconstruction of Western Mediterranean geodynamics and paleogeography but several key aspects of its geological evolution are still uncertain. The most debated topics include the interpretation of the Corsican orogen as the result of an east- or west-directed subduction, and the actual involvement of the Variscan basement of Corsica in the Alpine orogenic cycle. This study integrates 40Ar–39Ar laserprobe, mesostructural, microtextural, and microchemical analyses and places relevant constraints on the style, P-T conditions, and timing of Alpine-age, pervasive ductile shear zones which affected the Variscan basement complex of central Corsica, a few kilometers to the west of the present-day front of the Alpine nappes. Shear zones strike ~ NNE-SSW, dip at a high angle, and are characterized by a dominant sinistral strike-slip component. Two of the three investigated shear zones contain two texturally and chemically resolvable generations of white mica, recording a prograde (burial) evolution: (1) deformed celadonite-poor relicts are finely overgrown by (2) a celadonite-rich white mica aligned along the main foliation. White mica from a third sample of another shear zone, characterized by a significantly lower porphyroclast/matrix ratio, exhibits a nearly uniform high-celadonite content, compositionally matching the texturally younger phengite from the nearby shear zones. Mineral-textural analysis, electron microprobe data, and pseudosection modeling constrain P-T conditions attained during shearing at ~ 300 °C and minimum pressures of ~ 0.6 GPa. In-situ 40Ar–39Ar analyses of coexisting low- and high-celadonite white micas from both shear zones yielded a relatively wide range of ages, ~ 45–36 Ma. Laser step-heating experiments gave sigmoidal-shaped age profiles, with step ages in line with in-situ spot dates. By contrast, the apparently chemically homogenous high-celadonite white mica yielded concordant in-situ ages at ~ 34 Ma, but a hump-shaped age spectrum, with maximum ages of ~ 35 Ma and intermediate- to high-temperature steps as young as ~ 33–32 Ma. Results indicate that the studied samples consist of an earlier celadonite-poor white mica with a minimum age of ~ 46 Ma, overgrown by a synshear high-celadonite white mica, developed at greater depth between ~ 37 and 35 Ma; faint late increments in shearing occurred at ≤ 33–32 Ma, when white mica incipiently re-equilibrated during exhumation. Results suggest that ductile shearing with a dominant strike-slip component pervasively deformed the Corsican basement complex during the emplacement and progressive thickening of the Alpine orogenic wedge and broaden the extent of the domain affected by the Alpine tectonometamorphic events. Integration of petrological modeling and geochronological data shows that the Variscan basement of central Corsica, close to the Alpine nappes, was buried during the late Eocene by ≥ 18 km of Alpine orogenic wedge and foreland deposits. Our results, combined with previously published apatite fission-track data, imply an overburden removal ≥ 15 km from the late Eocene (Priabonian) to the early Miocene (Aquitanian), pointing to a minimum average exhumation rate of 1.3–1.5 mm/a.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-383
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Alpine orogen
  • Ar–Ar dating
  • Corsica
  • Shear zones
  • White mica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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