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Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

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Journal of Asian Earth Sciences


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Review

Gondwana dispersion and Asian accretion: Tectonic and palaeogeographic


evolution of eastern Tethys
I. Metcalfe
Earth Sciences, Earth Studies Building C02, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
National Key Centre for Geochemical Evolution and Metallogeny of Continents (GEMOC), Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 8 September 2012
Received in revised form 12 December 2012
Accepted 13 December 2012
Available online 2 January 2013
Keywords:
Gondwana
Asia
Terranes
Suture zones
Tethys
Tectonics
Palaeogeography

a b s t r a c t
Present-day Asia comprises a heterogeneous collage of continental blocks, derived from the Indianwest
Australian margin of eastern Gondwana, and subduction related volcanic arcs assembled by the closure of
multiple Tethyan and back-arc ocean basins now represented by suture zones containing ophiolites,
accretionary complexes and remnants of ocean island arcs. The Phanerozoic evolution of the region is
the result of more than 400 million years of continental dispersion from Gondwana and plate tectonic
convergence, collision and accretion. This involved successive dispersion of continental blocks, the northwards translation of these, and their amalgamation and accretion to form present-day Asia. Separation
and northwards migration of the various continental terranes/blocks from Gondwana occurred in three
phases linked with the successive opening and closure of three intervening Tethyan oceans, the
Palaeo-Tethys (DevonianTriassic), Meso-Tethys (late Early PermianLate Cretaceous) and Ceno-Tethys
(Late TriassicLate Cretaceous). The rst group of continental blocks dispersed from Gondwana in the
Devonian, opening the Palaeo-Tethys behind them, and included the North China, Tarim, South China
and Indochina blocks (including West Sumatra and West Burma). Remnants of the main Palaeo-Tethys
ocean are now preserved within the Longmu Co-Shuanghu, ChangningMenglian, Chiang Mai/Inthanon
and BentongRaub Suture Zones. During northwards subduction of the Palaeo-Tethys, the Sukhothai
Arc was constructed on the margin of South ChinaIndochina and separated from those terranes by a
short-lived back-arc basin now represented by the Jinghong, NanUttaradit and Sra Kaeo Sutures.
Concurrently, a second continental sliver or collage of blocks (Cimmerian continent) rifted and separated
from northern Gondwana and the Meso-Tethys opened in the late Early Permian between these separating blocks and Gondwana. The eastern Cimmerian continent, including the South Qiangtang block and
Sibumasu Terrane (including the Baoshan and Tengchong blocks of Yunnan) collided with the Sukhothai
Arc and South China/Indochina in the Triassic, closing the Palaeo-Tethys. A third collage of continental
blocks, including the Lhasa block, South West Borneo and East JavaWest Sulawesi (now identied as
the missing Banda and Argoland blocks) separated from NW Australia in the Late TriassicLate
Jurassic by opening of the Ceno-Tethys and accreted to SE Sundaland by subduction of the Meso-Tethys
in the Cretaceous.
2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Contents
1.
2.

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tectonic framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.
Gondwana origins of East and SE Asian Continental and Arc terranes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.1.
North China Block. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.2.
South China Block. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.3.
Tarim Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.4.
Ala Shan Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.5.
Qilian Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.6.
Qaidam Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Address: Earth Sciences, Earth Studies Building C02, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia. Tel.: +61 2
67733499; fax: +61 2 67727136.
E-mail address: imetcal2@une.edu.au
1367-9120/$ - see front matter 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jseaes.2012.12.020

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

3.

4.

5.

2.1.7.
North QiangtangQamdoSimao Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.8.
Simao Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.9.
South Qiangtang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.10.
Lhasa Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.11.
Indochina Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.12.
Song Da Zone (Terrane) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.13.
North Vietnam Terrane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.14.
Orang Laut terranes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.15.
Sibumasu Terrane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.16.
Sukhothai Arc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.17.
West Sumatra and West Burma Blocks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.18.
SW Borneo Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.19.
Semitau Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.20.
East JavaW Sulawesi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.21.
Luconia-Dangerous Grounds Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Eastern Tethyan Ocean Basins and Suture Zones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.
Palaeo-Tethys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.1.
Longmu Co-Shuanghu Suture Zone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.2.
ChangningMenglian Suture Zone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.3.
Chiang MaiInthanon Suture Zone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.4.
Chanthaburi Suture Zone (Klaeng Tectonic Line) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.5.
BentongRaub Suture Zone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.6.
SongpanGanzi Suture Knot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.7.
Song Ma Suture Zone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.8.
Dian Qiong Suture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.9.
JinshajiangAilaoshan Suture zone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1.10.
Median Sumatra Tectonic Zone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.
Sukhothai Back-Arc Suture Zones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.1.
Jinghong Suture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.2.
NanUttaradit Suture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2.3.
Sra Kaeo Suture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.
Meso-Tethys Sutures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.1.
BanggongNujiang Suture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3.2.
Lok Ulo and Meratus Sutures. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.4.
Ceno-Tethys Suture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.4.1.
IndusYarlungTsangpo Suture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Dispersion and accretion of terranes/blocks and palaeogeographic evolution of eastern Tethyan ocean basins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.1.
Rifting and separation of terranes/blocks from Gondwana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.1.1.
Devonian rifting and separation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.1.2.
Early Permian rifting and separation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.1.3.
Late TriassicLate Jurassic rifting and separation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tectonic and palaeogeographic evolution of eastern Tethyan basins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.1.
Evolution and palaeogeography of the Palaeo-Tethys. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.
Evolution and palaeogeography of the Meso-Tethys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.3.
Evolution and palaeogeography of the Ceno-Tethys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1. Introduction
Present day East and Southeast Asia is located at the zone of
convergence between the Asian, IndiaAustralia, and Philippine
Sea-Pacic Plates (Fig. 1) and is the result of more than 400 million
years of continental dispersion from Gondwana and plate tectonic
convergence, collision and accretion. Long-term subduction and related tectonic processes have produced multiple volcanic arcs, island arc chains and marginal basins in the region. Most of the
various continental pieces that now make up Asia were derived
from the southern hemisphere supercontinent Gondwana
(Metcalfe, 1988) and travelled north to progressively collide and
coalesce prior to the current ongoing collision with the northwards
moving Australian continent (Metcalfe, 1990, 1996a,b, 2011a,b).
Several hundred millions of years of convergence in the Asian
region, including long-term subductionaccretion, arc-continent
collisions, and continentcontinent collisions have resulted in multiple orogenic and mountain building events, major plutonism (e.g.

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tin-bearing granite belt of Southeast Asia), uplift and basin development. During the separation of the various continental terranes
from Gondwana, their northwards migration and collision, three
intervening Tethyan oceans, the Palaeo-Tethys (DevonianTriassic), Meso-Tethys (late Early PermianLate Cretaceous) and
Ceno-Tethys (Late TriassicLate Cretaceous), were opened and subsequently destroyed (Metcalfe, 1994, 1996a,b, 1998). Remnants of
these ancient oceans are preserved in the various narrow suture
zones and fold-thrust belts bounding the continental blocks,
including ophiolitic rocks, volcanic arcs, and accretionary complexes with melange and deep sea sediments often forming discrete packages or disrupted elements of Ocean Plate Stratigraphy
(OPS), see Wakita and Metcalfe (2005). The continental collisions
that ultimately led to the formation of Asia began in the Palaeozoic
and continue at the present day. In the Southeast Asian region continental collisions and accretion occurred in two distinct phases,
one in the Late PaleozoicEarly Mesozoic and one in the Late
Mesozoic and Cenozoic. The earlier phase brought together pieces

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 1. Topography and main active faults in East Asia and location of SE Asia at the zone of convergence of the Eurasian (pale orange), Philippine (pale blue) and Indian
Australian plates (pale green). Large arrows represent absolute (International Terrestrial Reference Frame 2000, Altamimi et al. 2002) motions of plates (After Simons et al.,
2007; Metcalfe, 2011a).

of continent that exhibit widely differing Late Palaeozoic biotas


representative of the high-latitude southern hemisphere Gondwana and low-latitude equatorial-northern hemisphere Cathaysian
biotic provinces (Metcalfe, 2011a,b). The second collisional phase
involved the addition of Gondwana and Asia-derived continental
fragments to the mainland Sundaland core during the Mesozoic
and Cenozoic and the Cenozoic collision of the northwards moving
Indian and Australian continents with mainland and maritime
Southeast Asia respectively (Hall, 1996, 2002, 2011, 2012). The Late
Palaeozoic GondwanaCathaysia biogeographic divide or line in
mainland Southeast Asia is as striking and as signicant biogeographically as the Wallace/Huxley/Lydekker Lines that divide
extant Australian and Asian biotas (Figs. 2 and 3). This paper presents a review of the origins and dispersal of continental blocks/
terranes from Gondwana, their northwards translation and accretion to form Asia and an overview of the evolution of the eastern
Palaeo-Tethys, Meso-Tethys and Ceno-Tethys ocean basins.

2. Tectonic framework
Present day Asia (including SE Asia) comprises a complex collage of continental fragments, volcanic arcs, and suture zones
(Fig. 2). The suture zones variably include accretionary complex
rocks with disrupted Ocean Plate Stratigraphy (OPS), pelagic (radiolarian cherts, pelagic limestones) and hemipelagic sediments,

ophiolites, ocean oor basalts, melange, sea mounts, etc. They represent destroyed ocean basins or back-arc basins.
2.1. Gondwana origins of East and SE Asian Continental and Arc
terranes
All the East and SE Asian continental terranes/blocks are
interpreted to have had (directly or indirectly) their origins on
the margin of Eastern Gondwana. These origins and interpreted
original positions of Asian terranes are based on an assessment
of multi-disciplinary constraining data, including basement nature
and age; palaeomagnetism; faunal/oral afnities/biogeography;
tectonostratigraphy; palaeoenvironmental/palaeoclimatic indicators; provenance (UPb detrital zircon age nger printing and Hf
isotopes); see Table 1 and individual descriptions of blocks/
terranes.
2.1.1. North China Block
The North China Block (alternatively known as the Sino-Korean
Block) is bounded by the QilianQinlingDabieSula suture and
Tan Lu Fault to the south and the Solonker suture to the north
(Fig. 2). The Ala Shan Block may form its westwards continuation.
It has an ancient basement rooted in the supercontinent Rodinia
which comprises some metamorphic basement rocks as old as
>3.8 Ga and several Late Archaean (2.8 Ga) nuclei surrounded by
Palaeoproterozoic orogenic belts of about 1.8 Ga (Jahn and Ernst,

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 2. Distribution of principal continental blocks, arc terranes and sutures of eastern Asia. WB = West Burma, SWB = South West Borneo, S = Semitau, L = Lhasa, SQT = South
Qiangtang, NQT = North Qiangtang, QS = QamdoSimao, SI = Simao, SG = Songpan Ganzi accretionary complex, QD = Qaidam, QI = Qilian, AL = Ala Shan, KT = Kurosegawa
Terrane, LT = Lincang arc Terrane, CT = Chanthaburi arc Terrane, EM = East Malaya. After Metcalfe (2011b).

1990; Liu et al., 1992; Wu et al., 2008). Geochemical, geochronological, structural and metamorphic PT path data suggest that
the basement of the North China Craton can be divided into Eastern
and Western Blocks, separated by the Late Archean to Paleoproterozoic Trans-North China Orogen (Zhao et al., 2000, 2001; Zheng
et al., 2009). What is less clear, is whether North China formed
an integral part of Gondwana in the Early Palaeozoic. Cambrian
and Ordovician shallow-marine shelly faunas of the North China
Block (particularly trilobites and brachiopods) include elements
that characterise the Early Palaeozoic Sino-Australian biotic province (Burrett et al., 1990) and in addition, the distinctive Sino-Australian province conodont Serratognathus links North China with
Australia, South China, Tarim and Sibumasu in the early Ordovician
(Metcalfe, 2006; Wang et al., 2007; Zhen et al., 2009). In addition to
faunal links, gross stratigraphical comparisons suggest that North
China and the Arafura Basin region of northern Australia are very
similar (Fig. 4) indicating that North China may have been attached
to North Australia, adjacent to the Arafura Basin, during the Early
Palaeozoic (Nicoll and Totterdell, 1990; Nicoll and Metcalfe,
1994). This placement is also supported by palaeomagnetic data
(Klootwijk, 1996a,b,c). Carboniferous and younger faunas and oras of North China show no afnities to Gondwanaland suggesting
that it had already separated and moved northwards by that time.

2.1.2. South China Block


The South China Block is bounded to the north by the Qilian
QinlingDabieSula suture and Tan Lu Fault, to the south by the
Song Ma suture, and to the west by the Songpan Ganzi accretionary
complex. The block is composite and here regarded to comprise
two sub-blocks, the Yangtze and Cathaysia blocks that amalgamated along the Jiangnan suture in the Proterozoic around 860 Ma
(Charvet et al., 1999; Yao et al., in press; Wang et al., 2012). Recent
recognition of the Dian Qiong Suture zone (Cai and Zhang, 2009)
implies a disrupted Indochina derived North Vietnam terrane
between this suture and the Red River fault (Fig. 3).
Early Palaeozoic shallow marine faunas of South China belong
to the AsiaAustralian and Austral realms in the Cambrian and Ordovician, respectively (Yang, 1994; Li, 1994). These faunal afnities
(Fig. 5), together with stratigraphic comparisons suggest that
South China had its origin on the HimalayaIran region of the
Gondwanaland margin (Burrett et al., 1990; Nie et al., 1990; Nie,
1991; Metcalfe, 1996a,b). Central South China Pagoda Limestone
Ordovician trilobite faunas are identical at the species level to
coeval faunas on the Sibumasu terrane in Thailand and Malaysia,
a region interpreted to have been attached to NW/W Australia at
this time. Similarly, Late Ordovician-early Silurian shelly faunas
of South China are closely related to coeval ones on the Sibumasu

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 3. Distribution of continental blocks, fragments and terranes, and principal sutures of Southeast Asia. Numbered micro-continental blocks, 1. East Java; 2. Bawean; 3.
Paternoster; 4. Mangkalihat; 5. West Sulawesi; 6. Semitau; 7. Luconia; 8. KelabitLongbowan; 9. Spratly IslandsDangerous Ground; 10. Reed Bank; 11. North Palawan; 12.
Paracel Islands; 13. Maccleseld Bank; 14. East Sulawesi; 15. BangaiSula; 16. Buton; 17. ObiBacan; 18. BuruSeram; 19. West Irian Jaya. LT = Lincang Terrane,
ST = Sukhothai Terrane and CT = Chanthaburi Terrane, EM = East Malaya. CM = ChangningMenglian Suture, C.-Mai = Chiang Mai Suture, and NanUtt. = NanUttaradit
Suture. After Metcalfe (2011b).

terrane (Cocks and Fortey, 1997). Placement of South China


adjacent to the HimalayaIran region is consistent with the palaeomagnetic evidence which places South China in mid-southern to
equatorial palaeolatitudes in the Ordovician (Lin et al., 1985; Burrett
et al., 1990; Metcalfe, 1990; Zhao et al., 1996a,b; Torsvik and
Cocks, 2009). South China is interpreted to have been attached to
the NE Gondwana Himalayanwest Australian region in the early
Palaeozoic. Devonian faunas (especially sh and some brachiopods)
are endemic indicating that South China had separated from
Gondwana at that time. Late Palaeozoic Carboniferous and Permian
faunas and oras are low-latitude warm-climate Cathaysian/
Tethyan in nature consistent with equatorial palaeolatitudes
indicated by palaeomagnetic data (Li et al., 2004), see Fig. 6.
2.1.3. Tarim Block
The Tarim Block is bounded by the Tianshan orogen to the
north, and the Kunlun and Altyn-Tagh orogens to the south and
southeast (Fig. 1). The block is largely covered by young Cenozoic
sedimentary cover but Precambrian, Palaeozoic and Mesozoic

rocks outcrop along its margins. The Precambrian basement includes Neoarchean tonalitic and granitic rocks and Palaeoproterozoic paragneiss. Mesoproterozoic meta-sedimentary quartzites,
slates, conglomerates and marbles overlie the Neoarchean and
Palaeoproterozoic rocks unconformably (Zhang et al., in pressb,c). These basement rocks are succeeded by Neoproterozoic volcano-sedimentary rocks and Palaeozoic passive continental margin
sequences. Zircon Hf model ages for the Tarim basement rocks
show two peaks at 2.6 Ga and 3.2 Ga (Fig. 7). Zircon Hf model
age spectra is consistent with the whole rock Nd model age spectra
which shows several peaks at 2.34 Ga, 2.53 Ga, 2.74 Ga and 3.2 Ga
(Zhang et al., in press-b,c). Both whole rock Nd model ages and
zircon Hf model ages indicate a signicant growth of juvenile crust
in the Mesoarchean and Neoarchean. Basement rocks of the Tarim
Block appear to have formed later than those of North and South
China (Yangtze) see Fig. 7.
Ordovician conodont faunas of Tarim, include the Lower-Middle
Ordovician Sino-Australian Province genus Serratognathus, and
show close afnities (Fig. 5) with faunas from similar facies in

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Table 1
Interpreted origins and original sites of attachment of East and SE Asian Continental and Arc terranes/blocks.
Terrane/Block/Arc

Terrane/Block boundaries

Origin and site of original attachment

North China (SinoKorean Block)


South China (YangtzeCathaysia composite)
Tarim

QilianQinlingDabeiSula suture and Tan Lu Fault to the south and the Solonker suture to the
north
QilianQinlingDabeiSula suture and Tan Lu Fault, to the south by the Song Ma suture, and to
the west by the Songpan Ganzi accretionary complex
Tianshan orogen to the north, and the Kunlun and Altyn-Tagh orogens to the south and
southeast
North Qilian suture to the south west, the Solonker suture to the north, and the west Ordos
thrust belt to the east
North Qilian orogenic belt to the north east and the North Qaidam ultra high pressure
metamorphic (UHPM) belt to the south
Altun Tagh Fault zone to the north west, the North Qaidam UHPM belt to north east, and the
Kun Lun suture and Songpan Ganzi accretionary complex to the south
Longmu Co-Shuanghu suture zone to the south east, and the Jinshajiang suture to the north east

Eastern Gondwana: Northern Australia

Ala Shan
Qilian
Qaidam
North QiangtangQamdo-Simao
South Qiangtang
Lhasa
Indochina

Song Da
North Vietnam Terrane
Sibumasu

West Sumatra
West Burma
Sukhothai Arc
SW Borneo
East JavaWest
Sulawesi

Longmu Co-Shuanghu suture to the north and the Banggong suture to the south
BanggongNujiang Suture to the north and the IndusYarlungTsangpo Suture to the south
Song Ma suture zone to the north east, Jinghong, NanUttaradit, Sra Kaeo and a cryptic suture in
the Malay Peninsula to the west, and the eastern margin of Sundaland and a cryptic Cretaceous
suture offshore SW Borneo to the east
Song Ma suture zone and the Red River Fault
DianQiong suture and the Red River Fault
Bounded to the west and southwest by the Mogok Metamorphic Belt, the Andaman Sea, and the
Medial Sumatra Tectonic zone and to the east and northeast by the ChangningMenglian,
Chiang MaiInthanon, and BentongRaub Sutures
Woyla suture to the south west and the Medial Sumatra Tectonic Line to the north east
Mogok metamorphic belt to the east and the Mawgyi Nappe to the west
ChangningMenglian, Inthanon (Chiang Mai), and BentongRaub Palaeo-Tethyan suture zones
to the west, and Jinghong, NanUttaradit and Sra Kaeo suture zones to the east
Lupar and Boyan zones (with the small Semitau block between) to the north, the Meratus and
Luk Ulo sutures to the southeast, and cryptic suture to the west
Meratus and Luk Ulo sutures to the north west, and Sulawesi suture to the south east

the North and South China blocks (Wang et al., 1996, 2007). This
suggests that Tarim was close to or attached to the Australian margin of Gondwana in the Ordovician.
2.1.4. Ala Shan Block
The small triangular shaped Ala Shan Block is bounded to the
southwest by the North Qilian suture, to the north by the Solonker
suture and to the east by the west Ordos thrust belt (Song et al., in
press). The basement comprises Archaean amphibolite (c. 2.7 Ga),
other Archaean elements indicated by 2.53.5 Ga detrital zircons
in metasedimentary sequences and Proterozoic tonalitic/granitic
gneisses dated at 2.31.9 Ga (Song et al., in press). The basement
is overlain by Cambrian Middle Ordovician cover sequences. This
block has previously been considered a westwards extension of the
North China Block (Zhao, 2009), but due to differing tectonic history to North China it is considered more likely to be a separate
tectonic unit (Song et al., in press).
2.1.5. Qilian Block
The Qilian Block as an imbricated thrust belt bounded by the
North Qilian orogenic belt to the north east and the North Qaidam
ultra high pressure metamorphic (UHPM) belt to the south. The
basement comprises Precambrian granitic gneiss, marble, amphibolite and minor granulite and Paleoproterozoic granitic gneiss dated at c. 2.5 Ga (Song et al., in press).
2.1.6. Qaidam Block
This small continental block is bounded by the Altyn Tagh Fault
zone to the north west, the North Qaidam UHPM belt to north east,
and the Kun Lun suture and Songpan Ganzi accretionary complex
to the south. The basement of the block is formed by Early Proterozoic metamorphic rocks with a Late ProterozoicPalaeozoic
sedimentary cover which is similar to that of the Tarim Block. A

Eastern Gondwana: HimalayaIran


region
Eastern Gondwana: NW Australian
region
NE Gondwana: Originally part of North
China
NE Gondwana: Originally part of North
China?
NE Gondwana: Originally part of Tarim?
Eastern Gondwana: Extension of
Indochona?
Himalayan Gondwana
Eastern Gondwana: East Himalaya
Western Australian Gondwana margin
Eastern Gondwana: HimalayaWestern
Australian Gondwana margin
South China
South China
Eastern Gondwana: Western Australia
margin
Indochina/South China margin
Indochina/South China margin
Western Indochina/South China margin
NW Australia: Banda embayment
NW Australia: Argo embayment

MesozoicCenozoic intra-cratonic basin sequence covers most of


the block. It seems most probable that the Qaidam Block originally
formed part of the Tarim terrane and reached its current relative
position to the Tarim Block by strike slip displacement along the
Altun Tagh fault zone during the latest Cretaceous to Early Cenozoic (Allen et al., 1994).
2.1.7. North QiangtangQamdoSimao Block
A QamdoSimao Block, previously referred to as the Lanpin
Simao block, the North Qiangtang Block (e.g., Jin, 2002; Bian
et al., 2004) or Eastern Qiangtang Block (Zhang et al., 2002)
was proposed by Metcalfe (2002a) based on the distribution of
Early Permian faunas and oras of the region and distribution of
warm Cathaysian vs. cold Gondwanan elements (Fig. 8). Metcalfe
(2002a) regarded this block as a separate micro-terrane derived
from South ChinaIndochina by back-arc spreading in the Carboniferous. The western boundary of this block was not well constrained but recent studies in the Qiangtang Block of Tibet have
proposed a Longmu Co-Shuanghu suture zone through central
Qiangtang which includes blueschist, eclogite, metabasaltic rocks,
ophiolitic melange, OIB-type basalt, metapelite, marble and minor
chert, ultramac rocks that represent ocean-oor and sea mount
rock associations (Zhai et al., 2011 and references therein). UPb
zircon metamorphic ages of the blueschists and eclogites of the
Longmu Co-Shuanghu suture range from 230 to 237 Ma (early Late
Triassic) and Permian protolith ages are indicated. Younger Late
Triassic ArAr ages on phengite (203222 Ma) and on white micas
(c. 220 Ma) suggest Late Triassic exhumation (Kapp et al., 2000,
2003; Zhai et al., 2011). These new data suggests that the Longmu
Co-Shuanghu suture may represent the main Palaeo-Tethys ocean
and be the westwards extension of the ChangningMenglian suture of SW China. The presence of early Palaeozoic UPb SHRIMP
zircon ages for cumulate gabbros along this suture belt (Zhai

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

faunas. This indicates continental attachment to NE Gondwana at


that time. These pass up into Upper Permian shallow-marine
deposits with Cathaysian faunas and oras indicating that the
South Qiantang Block had separated from Gondwana, as part of
the Cimmerian continent, and moved into low latitudes by Late
Permian times (Metcalfe, 2011a,b). Lower Triassic marls unconformably overly the Upper Permian and these are in turn unconformably overlain by Middle Jurassic siliciclastics and carbonates.

Fig. 4. Gross PalaeozoicMesozoic stratigraphical comparison of North China and


the Arafura Basin, northern Australia.

et al., 2011) however seem too old to have been formed in the
Palaeo-Tethys which is here interpreted to have opened only in
the Devonian.
2.1.8. Simao Block
The concept of a Simao Block was introduced by Wu et al.
(1995) for the region bounded by the ChangningMenglianChiang
Mai sutures to the west, the Ailaoshan suture to the northeast and
the UttaraditNan Suture to the southeast. Metcalfe (2002a)
accepted this interpretation and correlated the Simao Block with
the Qamdo-Simao block to the north in Tibet, regarding these as
a single disrupted terrane derived from South ChinaIndochina
by back-arc spreading. More recent interpretations of suture zones
in this region and re-interpretation of part of the Simao Block as
the Sukhothai Arc with its eastern boundary marked by the
Jinghong suture zone (Sone and Metcalfe, 2008; Metcalfe,
2011a,b leaves only a remnant part of the original Simao Block, between the Ailaoshan and Jinghong suture zones which is here
considered a north west sub-terrane extension of the Indochina
Block (Figs. 2, 3 and 9).
2.1.9. South Qiangtang
The South Qiangtang terrane is bounded to the north by the
Longmu Co-Shuanghu suture and the to the south by the Banggong
suture (Figs. 2, 3 and 8). Basement rocks are largely buried by a
Silurian to Jurassic cover sequence. Upper Carboniferous and Lower
Permian sediments include glacialmarine and glacial deposits and
Lower Permian cold-water faunas and Gondwanaland oras and

2.1.10. Lhasa Block


The Lhasa Block is bounded to the north by the Banggong
Nujiang Suture (Meso-Tethys) and to the south by the Indus
YarlungTsangpo Suture (Ceno-Tethys) (Figs. 2, 3 and 8). There
has been some recent debate on whether the Lhasa Block is a single
continental block or a composite terrane. Yang et al. (2009) identied a Permian eclogite belt and associated Island Arc basalts
within the Lhasa Block and proposed that the block was composite
comprising a North Lhasa segment and a South Lhasa segment separated by a North Gangdese Suture. The arc basalts and eclogite
(Fig. 10) are here interpreted as an arc constructed on the Lhasa
Block whilst it still formed part of the Gondwana margin.
Zhu et al. (2011a) on the other hand regard the Lhasa Block as a
single unit and based on UPb zircon and LuHf isotopic and bulkrock geochemical data for MesozoicEarly Tertiary magmatic rocks
indicate basement rocks of Proterozoic and Archaean (up to
2.87 Ga) in its central part with younger juvenile crust accreted
both to the north and south of this micro-continent. This implies
earlier southwards directed subduction beneath Lhasa, then later
northwards subduction beneath the block. A Triassic separation
of Lhasa from Australian Gondwana by back-arc spreading was
suggested and this is here supported. The same authors (Zhu
et al., in press) however, show Lhasa separating from Australian
Gondwana in the latest Devonian and isolated from Gondwana in
the early Permian. This interpretation ies in the face of unequivocal biogeographic and climatic data that place Lhasa on the margin of eastern Gondwana in the early Permian, and is inconsistent
with evidence for early Devonian opening and spreading of the Palaeo-Tethys. It is curious that Zhu et al. (in press) also do not show
the position of the Sibumasu block, and their Eastern Qiangtang
terrane mysteriously disappears from their reconstructions after
the Early Cambrian. Further recent detrital zircon geochronological
and geochemical data (Zhu et al., 2011b) suggests provenance from
the AlbanyFraser belt in southwest Australia and a western
Australian origin is suggested.
The Lhasa Block is here treated as a single tectonic unit until it
can be unequivocally demonstrated to be composite. The arc basalts and eclogites reported by Yang et al. (2009) may represent a
volcanic arc constructed on the Lhasa Block rather than representing a Tethyan suture zone. Such an arc would have been constructed on Lhasa by southwards subduction of Meso-Tethys
beneath the HimalayanAustralian eastern Gondwana margin.
Early Palaeozoic to Early Permian faunas and oras of the Lhasa
Block are similar to those of Sibumasu and northeast Gondwana.
The presence of Late CarboniferousEarly Permian glacial-marine
diamictites and cool/cold-water faunas of the same age indicate
contiguity with Sibumasu, on the Gondwana margin, at this time.
The original position of Lhasa on the Gondwana margin is still
poorly constrained but comparisons of detrital zircon age proles
from the Lhasa Block, Western Australia, and Indian Himalayas
(Fig. 11) indicate a HimalayanWestern Australian margin origin
which seems supported by available multidisciplinary data.
Palaeomagnetic data for the Lhasa Block are sparse but the block
appears to have travelled from southern to northern hemisphere
latitudes in the Late TriassicJurassic (Li et al., 2004), see Fig. 6.
Chen et al. (in press) present new palaeomagnetic studies of the
Early Cretaceous Zenong Group, Lhasa Terrane and indicate a

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 5. Palaeozoic and Mesozoic faunal and oral provinces and afnities vs. time for the principal East Asian continental blocks (after Metcalfe, 2001, 2011a).

Fig. 6. Palaeolatitude vs. Time for some principal east and southeast Asian continental blocks (After Li et al. 2004). Note northwards migration of South China, Sibumasu and
Lhasa from southern to northern latitudes in the Late SilurianEarly Devonian, Permian, and JurassicCretaceous respectively.

paleolatitude of 19.8 4.6 N. This is consistent with previous results (Li et al., 2004).
2.1.11. Indochina Block
The north-eastern boundary of the Indochina Block is delineated by the Song Ma suture zone in Vietnam and the western
boundary by the Jinghong, NanUttaradit, Sra Kaeo and a cryptic
suture offshore eastern Malay Peninsula (Figs. 2 and 3). The eastern
boundary is poorly dened but broadly corresponds to the eastern
margin of Sundaland in the South China Sea region and to a cryptic
Cretaceous suture offshore SW Borneo. The basement of the Indochina Block comprises a metamorphic core (Kontum massif) of
granulite facies rocks exposed in Vietnam, and it has been suggested that this may have originally formed part of the Gondwana
granulite belt (Katz, 1993). Nd depleted mantle model ages of 1.2

2.4 Ga indicate crustal formation in the Palaeoproterozoic and


Mesoproterozoic (Lan et al., 2003).
Two thermotectonic events are indicated by UPb (monazite
and zircon) and ArAr (mica) ages in the granulites of the Kontum
Massif, one in the Middle Ordovician (470465 Ma) and the other
in the Early Triassic (250245 Ma) (Roger et al., 2007). Upper intercept ages for monazites of 635 160 Ma, 1 0.3 Ga and
1421 120 Ma are interpreted by Roger et al. (2007) as minimum
ages of an inherited component related to the sedimentary protolith age or to the age of a previous metamorphic event. These Ordovician ages in the Kontum Massif are similar to UPb ages in
the Song Chay (northern Vietnam) for a magmatic event dated at
428 3 Ma (Roger et al., 2000) and at 418407 Ma in the Dailoc
Massif of the Central Truong Son Belt (Carter et al., 2001). Subsequent Triassic Indosinian granulite facies metamorphism is indi-

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

marine calcareous sediments indicating deepening of the rift and


invasion of the sea (Lepvrier et al., 2008).

Fig. 7. Zircon Hf model age spectra for Tarim, North China and Yangtze (from Zhang
et al., in press-b,c and after Long et al., 2010; Geng et al., 2012).

cated by UPb SHRIMP zircon and ArAr mica dates of 250245 Ma


(Nam et al., 2001; Maluski et al., 2005; Roger et al., 2007).

2.1.12. Song Da Zone (Terrane)


The Song Da Zone (Fig. 9) north of the Song Ma suture and south
of the Red River Fault represents a continental rift (Tri, 1979;
Hutchison, 1989). This rift terrane is separated from the main
South China Block by the Red River Fault zone. Early PermianLower Triassic sedimentary rocks in the rift are terrigenous and are
associated with Permian plume/rift-related volcanics including
komatiites equivalent to the Emeishan volcanic province in South
China (Hanski et al., 2003). The Middle Triassic in the rift includes

2.1.13. North Vietnam Terrane


Recognition of a DianQiong suture in South China regarded as
a disrupted Palaeo-Tethyan suture originally contiguous with the
Song Ma suture (Zhang et al., 2006; Zhang and Cai, 2009; Cai and
Zhang, 2009) indicates that the small continental block between
this suture and the Red River Fault represents a disrupted component of the Indochina Block (Fig. 9). This small continental fragment is here referred to as the North Vietnam Terrane. If the
DianQiong suture and North Vietnam Terrane are accepted, then
left-lateral displacemnet along the Red River Fault must be substantial. This would have major implications for tectonic models
for the region that employ relatively modest displacement along
the Red River Fault (e.g. Morley, 2012; Hall, 2002, 2012) compared
to models that require substantial displacement (e.g. Tapponnier
et al., 1982; Tapponnier et al., 1986). Further work is required to
resolve this issue.
2.1.14. Orang Laut terranes
Ferrari et al. (2008) propose an Orang Laut terranes concept
which suggests back-arc induced break-up of the South China
Indochina superterrane to produce what the authors call Orang
Laut terranes. The recognition of a West Sumatra terrane of
Cathaysian origin, outboard of the Sibumasu terrane in Sumatra
by Hutchison (1994) and Barber and Crow (2003) led to models
that derived this terrane from Cathaysialand (combined South
ChinaIndochina composite terrane in Permo-Triassic times) by
Barber et al. (2005) and Metcalfe (2005, 2009). Furthermore, West
Burma has recently been identied as a probable Cathaysian
terrane, originally contiguous with West Sumatra but now separated by the Andaman Sea (Barber and Crow, 2009). Further work
is required to demonstrate that there was indeed a back-arc

Fig. 8. Distribution of Lower Permian Gondwana and Cathaysian province faunas and oras of the TibetYunnan region, showing the remarkable juxtaposition of these highly
contrasting cool- and warm-climate biotas either side of the main Palaeo-Tethyan divide represented by the Longmu Co-Shuanghu and ChangningMenglian (C.M.) suture
zones. QS = Qamdo-Simao Block, SIB = Sibumasu terrane, SI = Simao terrane (northern Indochina), SG = Songpan Ganzi accretionary complex. After Metcalfe (1994).

10

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 9. Tectonic subdivision of mainland SE Asia Sundaland showing the Sukhothai Arc terranes and bounding Palaeo-Tethys and back-arc suture zones. Ages of deep marine
radiolarian cherts are shown in boxes. CM S.Z., ChangningMenglian Suture Zone. Modied after Sone and Metcalfe (2008) and Metcalfe (2011a, 2011b).

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

11

Fig. 10. Occurrence of Permian arc basalts and eclogite in the central part of the Lhasa Block, here interpreted as a volcanic arc produced by southwards subduction beneath
Lhasa on the eastern Gondwana margin (after Yang et al., 2009).

Fig. 11. Detrital zircon age distributions for sedimentary and metasedimentary
rocks of the Sibumasu Terrane and Lhasa and South Qiangtang Blocks compared to
zircon age distributions for Western Australia and the Himalayas. N = number of
samples; n = number of analyses. Compiled from and after Zhu et al. (2011b) and
Hall and Sevastjanova (2012).

oceanic basin or basins developed along the Song Da/Song Ma zone


in the PermianTriassic rather than an intracratonic rift zone. Derivation of the Spratly Islands and parts of the Philippines from the
Indochina margin by back-arc spreading is certainly a possibility,
but whether West Sumatra, West Burma and SW Borneo (Kalimantan) were derived in this way as suggested by Ferrari et al. (2008)
requires further investigation. SW Borneo has recently been proposed as a Gondwana-derived continental fragment that represents the Banda allochthon that separated from NWAustralia in
the Jurassic (Hall, in press; Hall et al., 2008; Metcalfe, 2009). I
therefore prefer not to use the term Orang Laut terranes as proposed by Ferrari et al. (2008).

2.1.15. Sibumasu Terrane


Metcalfe (1984) dened the Sibumasu terrane as including the
Shan States of Burma, Northwest Thailand, Peninsular Burma
and Thailand, western Malaya and Sumatra and possibly extending northwards into western China and Tibet. The name SIBUMASU
was an acronym derived by combining SI (Sino, Siam), BU (Burma),
MA (Malaya) and SU (Sumatra). The terrane is bounded to the
west and southwest by the Mogok Metamorphic Belt, the Andaman
Sea, and the Medial Sumatra Tectonic zone (Barber and Crow,
2009) and to the east and northeast by sutures representing the
main Palaeo-Tethys ocean, from north to south; the Changning
Menglian suture in SW China, the Chiang MaiInthanon Suture in
Thailand and the BentongRaub Suture in the Malay Peninsula
(Figs. 2, 3 and 9). Many authors have used Sibumasu and Shan-Thai
interchangeably, but these are not the same. The Shan-Thai Terrane
of Bunopas (1982) was dened as including eastern Burma,
western Thailand and northwestern Malay Peninsula did not
include any part of Sumatra or western China. Recent usage of the
term Shan-Thai for very disparate geographic regions and tectonic
units has also rendered this term of little use (see Metcalfe, 2009
for full discussion). The Sibumasu terrane is the eastern part of
the Cimmerian continent of Sengr (1984) and is here regarded as
including the Baoshan and Tengchong blocks of western China
and extending to the South Qiangtang Block of Tibet.
The oldest dated sedimentary rocks on Sibumasu are middle
Cambrian to Early Ordovician clastics of the Machinchang and Jerai
formations in NW Peninsular Malaysia (Lee, 2009), the Turatao
Formation in southern Thailand, and the Chao Nen Formation in
western Thailand (Fig. 12). NdSr and UPb zircon dating of
PermianTriassic granitoids in the Malay Peninsula (Liew and
McCulloch, 1985) suggested that the crust beneath the Sibumasu
Block is 15001700 Ma old. Recent detrital zircon studies in the
Malay Peninsula (Sevastjanova et al., 2011; Hall and Sevastjanova,
2012) indicate that the basement of the Sibumasu Block can be
dated as primarily Palaeoproterozoic, around 1.92.0 Ga. There
are also probable minor Mesoproterozoic (1.6 Ga) and Neoarchaean
(3.02.8 Ga) components (see Fig. 11).
Distinctive Cambrian-Early Permian Gondwanaland faunas
with NW Australian afnities on Sibumasu (Archbold et al., 1982;
Burrett and Stait, 1985; Metcalfe, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1994, 2002b;
Burrett et al., 1990; Shi and Waterhouse, 1991), suggest a NW Australian origin for the Sibumasu terrane. This is supported by the
presence of Late CarboniferousEarly Permian glacial-marine
diamictites (Stauffer and Mantajit, 1981; Metcalfe, 1988; Stauffer
and Lee, 1989; Ampaiwan et al., 2009), Lower Permian cool-water
fauna and d18O cool-water indicators (Waterhouse, 1982; Ingavat
and Douglass, 1981; Rao, 1988; Fang and Yang, 1991) which

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I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 12. Stratigraphy of the Sibumasu Terrane. Mainly after Metcalfe (2005). Langkawi and NW Malaya Palaeozoic stratigraphy from Lee (2009).

indicate proximity to the Late Palaeozoic Gondwanaland glaciated


region (see Figs. 5 and 12). Late Carboniferous and Early Permian
plant fossils are extremely rare on Sibumasu but a Glossopteris ora
has been reported south of Baoshan in western Yunnan (Wang and
Tan, 1994). Gross stratigraphical comparisons between Sibumasu
and NW Australia (Fig. 13) also show similarities consistent with
Sibumasu having been positioned outboard of NW Australian
Gondwanaland in the Paleozoic. In addition, Paleozoic paleomagnetic data indicates southern paleolatitudes (Fig. 14) consistent
with a position off NW Australian Gondwanaland in the Devonian,
Carboniferous and Early Permian (Fang et al., 1989; Bunopas, 1982;
Bunopas et al., 1989; Metcalfe, 1990; Huang and Opdyke, 1991).
2.1.16. Sukhothai Arc
The Sukhothai Arc (Ueno, 1999; Ueno and Hisada, 1999, 2001;
Sone and Metcalfe, 2008; Sone et al., 2012), comprising the
Linchang, Sukhothai, and Chanthaburi terranes and the Central
plus Eastern Belts of the Malay Peninsula (Metcalfe, in press), has
a continental basement and is bounded to the west by the
ChangningMenglian, Inthanon (Chiang Mai), and BentongRaub

Palaeo-Tethyan suture zones (Fig. 9). Its eastern boundary is


marked by the back-arc basin Jinghong, NanUttaradit and Sra
Kaeo suture zones and a cryptic suture offshore eastern Malay Peninsula (Fig. 9). The arc was constructed in the Late Carboniferous
Early Permian on the margin of the South ChinaIndochina superterrane by northwards subduction of the Palaeo-Tethys. It was
separated by back-arc spreading in the EarlyMiddle Permian
and was then accreted back onto South ChinaIndochina by
back-arc collapse in the Triassic (Fig. 15). Continuation of this arc
terrane southwards into the Malay Peninsula is equivocal and
Metcalfe (2011b) suggested continuatioin to the central Belt of
the Malay Peninsula that forms a gravity high (Ryall, 1982).
Metcalfe (in press), based mainly on the distribution of I-Type
granotoids, has subsequently interpreted that both the Central
and Eastern Belts of the Malay Peninsula (East Malaya Block) represent the southern continuation of the Sukhathai Arc (Fig. 16). In
this case, the Central Belt would represent the fore-arc basin and
the Eastern Belt the Arc and its continental basement derived from
Indochina. Highly deformed Carboniferous continental margin
sequences along the eastern part of East Malaya may be the

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 13. Comparison of gross stratigraphies and facies of Sibumasu with northern Australia Basins. After Metcalfe (1994).

Fig. 14. Palaeomagnetc data plot showing northwards latitudinal movement of Sibumasu in the PermianTriassic (after Van Der Voo, 1993).

13

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I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 15. Cartoon showing the tectonic evolution of Sundaland (ThailandMalay Peninsula) and evolution of the Sukhothai Arc System during Late CarboniferousEarly
Jurassic times (after Ueno and Hisada, 1999; Metcalfe, 2002a; Sone and Metcalfe, 2008; Metcalfe, 2011a,b; Searle et al., 2012).

expression of orogenic deformation related to the closure of the


back arc basin, which must then be located offshore eastern Malay
Peninsula. This interpretation is followed here (see Metcalfe, in
press for further discussion).
A Proterozoic basement age of 11001400 Ma for the East
Malaya segment of the Sukhothai Arc was indicated by NdSr

and UPb zircon dating of PermianTriassic granitoids in the Malay


Peninsula (Liew and McCulloch, 1985). Recent detrital zircon UPb
and Hf-isotope data for Peninsular Malaysia (Sevastjanova et al.,
2011; Hall and Sevastjanova, 2012) supports a Proterozoic basement age but suggests older ages of 1.72.0 Ga with some older
(2.7 Ga) age components compared to the 11001400 Ma ages

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

15

Fig. 16. Map showing the distribution of the Palaeo-Tethys BentongRaub Suture Zone and Semanggol Formation rocks of the Malay Peninsula, ages of radiolarian cherts, and
postulated possible extension of the Sukhothai Arc beneath the Central Belt. After Metcalfe (2000, 2011a,b).

reported by Liew and McCulloch (1985). The oldest rocks in the


East Malaya segment of the Sukhothai Arc (east of the Bentong
Raub suture zone) are Carboniferous siliciclastics, and carbonates
although Chakraborty and Metcalfe (1995), based on structural
geology, indicated the possible presence of the pre-Carboniferous
(Devonian?). Sandstones and shales in Pahang and Trengganu, East
Malaya have yielded Cathaysian Mississippian plants (Asama,
1973; Jennings and Lee, 1985; Ohana et al., 1991). Shallow-marine
Pennsylvanian reefal carbonates (Panching Limestone) in Pahang
contain a rich warm-water Tethyan fauna (Metcalfe et al., 1980),
and Permian shallow-marine carbonates and siliciclastics contain
warm-water Tethyan and Cathaysian oras (Metcalfe, in press).
2.1.17. West Sumatra and West Burma Blocks
The West Sumatra Block (Hutchison, 1994; Barber and Crow,
2003, 2009) is an elongate continental sliver in Sumatra bounded
to the SW by the Woyla suture and terranes and to the NE by
the Medial Sumatra Tectonic Line (Figs. 2 and 3). The oldest known
rocks in this micro-terrane are the Carboniferous Kluet and Kuantan formations that exhibit warm-water, low-latitude faunas
(Barber and Crow, 2009). Early Permian oras and faunas on this
terrane belong to the warm-climate equatorial Cathaysian oral

province and Tethyan equatorial faunal province respectively


(Jongmans and Gothan, 1925, 1935; Vozenin-Serra, 1989; Fontaine
et al., 1989; Metcalfe, 2005, 2006; Ueno et al., 2006; Barber and
Crow, 2009). West Sumatra is located in an unusual location
outboard of the Sibumasu terrane (with cold climate Gondwanan
faunas and oras and glacial deposits in the early Permian) in
Sumatra and is interpreted to have been derived from the
IndochinaSouth China superterrane and emplaced by strike-slip
tectonics in the Permo-Triassic (Metcalfe, 2006, 2011a,b; Barber
and Crow, 2009).
The West Burma Block is bounded to the east by the Mogok
metamorphic belt and to the west by the Mawgyi Nappe
(Fig. 17). The block has a late Palaeozoic sedimentary rock and
pre-Mesozoic schist basement overlain by Triassic turbidites and
Cretaceous ammonite-bearing shales and limestones in the Indoburman Ranges and by a Late MesozoicCenozoic arc association
in the Central Lowlands of Burma. Metcalfe (1990) considered this
block to have a continental basement and to be a possible candidate for the Argoland block that rifted from NW Australia in
the Jurassic (Metcalfe, 1996a,b). Following the report of Cathaysian
Middle Permian fusulinids from Karmine on this block (Oo et al.,
2002), which are similar to the Middle Permian faunas of the West

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I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 17. Tectonic units in Myanmar (after Mitchell, 1993 and Barber and Crow, 2009).

Sumatra Block, it seems more likely that West Burma forms a disrupted northwards extension of West Sumatra and that both these
blocks were derived from the IndochinaSouth China superterrane
as suggested by Barber and Crow (2009).
2.1.18. SW Borneo Block
The SW Borneo Block is bounded to the north by the Lupar and
Boyan zones (with the small Semitau Block between) and to the
southeast by the Meratus and Luk Ulo sutures (Fig. 3). The western
margin of the block with the West Sumatra, Sibumasu and East
Malaya blocks is cryptic. Poorly exposed schists and hornstones
may represent the crystalline basement of this block but isotopic
dating of these is required to conrm this. The oldest rocks previously attributed to SW Borneo are Devonian limestones with corals
of the Old Slates Formation (Rutten, 1940; Sugiaman and Andria,
1999) but these limestones appears to form part of a melange unit
accreted to the NE margin of SW Borneo and not therefore part of
the core SW Borneo Block. Carboniferous-Permian fusulinid and
conodont-bearing Cathaysian limestones (Terbat Limestone) in
Sarawak (Cummings, 1962; Metcalfe, 1985), also previously considered part of the SW Borneo Block, are now regarded as forming
part of the acccreted material on the northern margin of the block
rather than representing part of its core basement. Deconstructing
these Late Palaeozoic Cathaysian elements from SW Borneo, now
allow its consideration as a block derived from NW Australia in
the Jurassic as proposed by Hall et al. (2008,2009), Hall (2009a,b,

2012) and Metcalfe (2011a,b). Diamonds occurring in SW Borneo


placer deposits without any likely local source, have geochemical
and isotope signatures similar to Australian diamonds (Taylor
et al., 1990; Smith et al., 2009) and therefore support such a
proposition.
2.1.19. Semitau Block
The small Semitau Block (Fig. 3) is located between the Lupar
and Boyan melange/suture zones in Sarawak (Williams and
Harahap, 1987; Williams et al., 1988). The Carboniferous-Early
Permian Terbat limestones with warm-water Tethyan faunas form
the oldest dated rocks on this small continental fragment
(Cummings, 1962; Metcalfe, 1985).
2.1.20. East JavaW Sulawesi
Several small continental blocks or areas interpreted to be
underlain by continental crust, have been recognised in the Java
SE Borneowest Sulawesi region (Hutchison, 1989; Metcalfe,
1990, 1996a,b). These include the East Java, Bawean, Paternoster,
Mangkalihat, and West Sulawesi blocks (Fig. 3). It is not yet clear
if these represent individual continental blocks or basement highs
of a larger continental terrane. The latter, as proposed by Hall
(2009a, 2011) and Granath et al. (2011) seems likely and these
are here designated the East JavaWest Sulawesi terrane, following
Hall (2012). Detrital zircon provenance studies indicate a Gondwanan origin (Smyth et al., 2007; Hall and Sevastjanova, 2012).

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

2.1.21. Luconia-Dangerous Grounds Block


A series of small continental blocks or basement highs northwest of Borneo, including the Luconia, KelabitLongbowan, Spratly
IslandsDangerous Grounds, Reed Bank, North Palawan, Paracel
Islands and Maccleseld Bank are here regarded as derived from
the South China/Indochina margin. These small blocks may well
represent several larger terranes. Fyhn et al. (2010) combined the
Luconia, KelabitLongbowan, Spratly Islands, Dangerous Grounds,
Reed Bank and North Palawan as a single block/terrane named
Luconia. This Luconia terrane was interpreted as an allochthonous terrane accreted to the east Asian margin in the early
Palaeogene causing a Luconian Orogeny that gave rise to Palaeocene to early Eocene inversion in the PhuquocKampot Som Basin.
Hall (in press) has followed this, but names the allochthonous
terrane the Dangerous Grounds. I am not convinced that the
continental crust represented by Fyhn et al.s (2010) Luconia is
allochthonous and I here follow my previous suggestion that the
continental crust represented by the Luconia/Dangerous Grounds
terrane was derived by extension of the east Asian margin and
opening of the South China Sea.
3. Eastern Tethyan Ocean Basins and Suture Zones
Three Tethyan ocean basins are now recognised in the Asia
Pacic region that opened and closed between Gondwana and Asia.
These are the Palaeo-Tehys, Meso-Tethys and Ceno-Tethys oceans.
The ages of opening and closure of these ocean basins is constrained by ages of oceanic rock assemblages within the sutures,
including ages of coherent and disrupted Ocean Plate Stratigraphy
(OPS) that includes pelagic cherts, mid ocean ridge basalts (MORB),
ocean island basalts (OIB) and sea mount carbonates capping OIB
(Wakita and Metcalfe, 2005). The initial stages of rifting can be
constrained by deep-marine continental margin deposits including
hemi-pelagic mudstones, cherts, limestones and turbiditic sandstones. A common misconception is that all radiolarian cherts are
pelagic and deposited on ocean oor. This is not the case and there
are many examples of hemipelagic or even shallow-marine radiolarian cherts (Jones and Murchey, 1986; Kamata et al., 2009). It is
therefore important, where possible, to determine the nature of
radiolarian cherts as true pelagic cherts (Type 1) or hemi-pelagic
cherts (Type 2). Only Type 1 cherts represent deposition on ocean
oor MORB or OIB. Fig. 18 presents a compilation of ages of pelagic
and hemipelagic radiolarian cherts, ophiolites, melanges, basalts
(MORB and OIB) and carbonate sea mount caps within the various
Palaeo-, Meso- and Ceno-Tethys suture zones. The various suture
zones are discussed individually below.
3.1. Palaeo-Tethys
The eastern Palaeo-Tethys main ocean basin is represented by
the Longmu Co-Shuanghu, ChangningMenglian, Chiang MaiInthanon, Chanthaburi (cryptic) and BentongRaub suture zones
(Figs. 2, 3 and 9). Studies of ocean plate stratigraphy, sea mount
rock associations, ophiolites, accretionary complex rocks, cover sequences, and stitching plutons indicate that this ocean basin
opened in the Early Devonian and closed in the Triassic (Fang
et al., 1994, 1996; Spiller and Metcalfe, 1995; Metcalfe, 1996a,b,
1998, 2006, 2011a,b; Metcalfe et al., 1999; Wakita and Metcalfe,
2005). The ages of various suture zone rocks are given in
Fig. 18A. A short lived branch of the Palaeo-Tethys opened as a
back-arc basin in the Early Permian behind the Sukhothai Arc
and closed in the Middle Triassic. This back-arc basin is represented by the Jinghong, NanUttaradit and Sra Kaeo suture zones
(Fig. 18A). Other branches of the Palaeo-Tethys are represented
by the DianQiong, Jinshajiang and Song Ma suture zones.

17

3.1.1. Longmu Co-Shuanghu Suture Zone


This suture zone forms the boundary between the South
Qiantang and North QiangtangQamdaoSimao Blocks in Tibet.
Metcalfe (1988) discussed the distribution of Early Permian
glacial-marine deposits in the Himalayas, Tibet and SE Asia and
recognised that these were conned to the south-western part of
the Qiangtang Block, south of what he termed the Lancangjiang
Fracture Zone. Metcalfe (1994) demonstrated that the distribution
of Early Permian cold-climate Gondwanan fauanas and oras are
also conned to the SW of this zone and warm-climate faunas
and oras to the NE of the zone, which was then termed the
Lancangjiang Suture interpreted to represent the main PalaeoTethys ocean. Little information was at that time available on this
suture zone or on remnants of the Palaeo-Tethys within it.
Recently, Zhai et al. (2011) reported blueschist, eclogite, metabasaltic rocks, ophiolitic melange, OIB-type basalt, metapelite,
marble and minor chert and ultramac rocks that represent
ocean-oor and sea mount rock associations from this zone and
termed it the Longmu Co-Shuanghu suture zone, a name here
accepted as it avoids confusion with the geographically disparate
Lancangjiang belt in SW China. They also reiterate that this probably represents the main Palaeo-Tethys ocean and correlate it with
the ChangningMenglian Suture in SW China. This interpretation is
here supported by the occurrence of Late Devonian and Permian
pelagic radiolarian cherts (Zhu et al., 2006). Ar/Ar ages on phengite
between 203 and 222 Ma (Kapp et al., 2000, 2003) and Lu/Hf
isochron ages on eclogite range between 233 and 244 Ma (Pullen
et al., 2008) indicating a Late Triassic closure of the Palaeo-Tethys
along the Longmu Co-Shuanghu Suture.
3.1.2. ChangningMenglian Suture Zone
This suture zone represents the main Palaeo-Tethys ocean basin
and forms the boundary between the Sibumasu Terrane to the
west and the Sukhothai Arc to the east (Sone and Metcalfe,
2008). Pelagic radiolarian cherts within the zone range in age from
late Middle Devonian to Middle Triassic (Liu et al., 1991; Metcalfe
et al., 1999) and limestones interpreted as seamount caps, have
yielded fusulinids indicative of Early Carboniferous to Late Permian
ages (Wu et al., 1995). More recently, Ueno et al. (2003) described
17 fusulininoidian faunal assemblages of late Early Mississippian
(Serpukhovian) through late Middle Permian (Capitanian) age from
continuously deposited sea mount carbonates at the Yutangzhai
section, Yunnan. These limestones also contain rugose corals
(Wang et al., 2001). The sea mount limestones are associated with
or directly overlie Visean ocean island basalts (Zhang et al., 1985;
He and Liu, 1993). In addition, Ueno and Tsutsumi (2009) report
WuchiapingianChanghsingian sea mount carbonates (Shifodong
Formation) in the suture zone. Supra-subduction zone ophiolites,
dated at ca. 270264 Ma, are interpreted to reect subduction of
the main Paleo-Tethys ocean in the Permian (Jian et al., 2009).
Other ophiolites (Fang et al., 1994) that appear to represent initial
ocean oor spreading are dated at 386 Ma (Early-Middle Devonian
boundary).
3.1.3. Chiang MaiInthanon Suture Zone
The Chiang MaiInthanon Suture in northern Thailand (Figs. 2, 3
and 9) represents the main Palaeo-Tethys ocean and corresponds
broadly to the Inthanon Zone of Ueno and Hisada (1999) and Ueno
(2003) and to the Chiang Mai Suture of Metcalfe (2005) and Wakita
and Metcalfe (2005). The suture zone includes disrupted OPS
including MORB basalts, pelagic radiolarian cherts and limestones,
pelagic mudstones and turbidites. Pelagic cherts range in age from
Middle Devonian to Middle Triassic (Caridroit, 1993; Caridroit
et al., 1993; Sashida et al., 2000; Feng et al., 2002; Sashida and
Salyapongse, 2002; Wonganan and Caridroit, 2005, 2007; Wonganan
et al., 2007; Ueno and Charoentitirat, 2011; Hara et al., 2010; see

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I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 18. Ages of cherts, carbonates, ophiolites, melange and basalts that constrain the age-duration of: A. Eastern Palaeo-Tethys suture zones, and; B. Meso- and Ceno-Tethys
suture zones. Compiled from multiple sources discussed in the text. Changhsingian sea mount limestones, and hemipelagic Triassic sediments may represent elements of
Meso-Tethys incorporated along the Indus-Yalung-Tsangbo suture by strike-slip tectonics.

Fig. 18A). In addition, conodont faunas of Upper Devonian and


Lower Carboniferous age are reported from oceanic cherts (Randon
et al., 2006) and Upper Devonian conodont faunas from pelagic
limestones (Knigshof et al., 2012). The suture zone also includes
accreted sea mounts, including the Doi Chiang Dao sea mount with
1100 m thick late Mississippian to Lopingian shallow-marine
fusulinoidean carbonates sitting on ocean island basalts (Ueno
et al., 2003, 2008, 2010; Ueno and Charoentitirat, 2011), an almost
exact correlative of sea mounts found in the ChangningMenglian
Palaeo-Tethyan suture zone to the north. The Inthanon zone in
Thailand, as originally mapped, includes in its western part a
fold-thrust belt with alternating thrust slices of Sibumasu basement and suture accretionary complex zone rocks thrust westwards over Sibumasu.

3.1.4. Chanthaburi Suture Zone (Klaeng Tectonic Line)


This is a largely cryptic suture but despite this, Late Devonian,
Late Permian and Middle Triassic radiolarian cherts are known
(Sone and Metcalfe, 2008; Sone et al., 2012). This highly disrupted
and largely hidden suture is interpreted as representing the main

Palaeo-Tethys along the western margin of the Chanthaburi


Terrane segment of the Sukhathai Arc (Sone et al., 2012).

3.1.5. BentongRaub Suture Zone


The BentongRaub Suture Zone of the Malay Peninsula represents the main Palaeo-Tethys ocean basin and forms the boundary
between the Sibumasu terrane in the west and the Sukhothai Arc
in the east (Figs. 2, 3 and 9) and was discussed in detail by Metcalfe
(2000). The suture includes oceanic radiolarian cherts ranging in
age from Devonian to Upper Permian (Figs. 15 and 17A), melanges
with clasts of ribbon-bedded chert, limestone, sandstone,
conglomerate, blocks of turbiditic rhythmites, volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks ranging in size from a few millimetres to several
metres and exceptionally, up to several hundred metres, and serpentinite bodies up to 20 km in length interpreted as representing
macultramac igneous rocks and oceanic peridotites (Metcalfe,
2000). Chert and limestone clasts in melange are dated by radiolarians, conodonts and foraminifera as Carboniferous and Permian
(Metcalfe, 2000). Triassic hemipelagic cherts, turbidites and conglomerates of the Semanggol Formation have been interpreted
as forming in a successor or foredeep basin developed on top of

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

the accretionary complex (Metcalfe, 2000) or in submarine grabens


alongside coeval carbonates deposited on horts following collission
of Sibumasu and east Malaya in the Late PermianEarly Triassic
(Barber and Crow, 2009). Sedimentary rocks included in the
Semanggol Formation include bedded pelagic cherts and mudstones, hemipelagic cherts and tuffaceous mudstones, turbiditic
sandstonemudstone rhythmites, and conglomerates. The traditional interpretation of the Semanggol Formation (Alexander
et al., 1959; Lee et al., 2004) is that it comprises three members,
from base to top: Chert Member (Lower Permian to Middle Triassic); Rhythmite Member (Middle to upper Triassic); and Conglomerate Member (Middle to Upper Triassic). It would appear however
that rocks previously assigned to the Semanggol Formation do
not represent a coherent layer-cake mappable stratigraphic unit
and the status of Semanggol Formation needs re-assessment.
Semanggol cherts dated as Permian (Spiller and Metcalfe, 1995;
Jasin, 2008) exhibit isoclinal folding and thrusting, whereas Triassic
Semanggol cherts do not exhibit these features and are in general
less deformed than Palaeozoic cherts of the suture zone. Latest
Permian and Lower Triassic cherts have also not been reported to
date and appear to be absent (see Nuraiteng Tee Abdullah, 2009
for a more detailed discussion). There are also no melanges associated with the Triassic cherts of the Semanggol. In addition, Azhar
Haji Hussin (1993) reinterpreted the stratigraphy at Gunong
Semanggol, the type locality for the Semanggol Formation in the
southern part of its outcrop area, and recognised a pre-Semanggol
unit of c. 80 m thickness comprising predominantly orthoconglomerates comprising almost entirely of radiolarian chert clasts (authors
own observation in the eld at Bukit Semanggol) overlain unconformably by more typical Semanggol Formation rock sequence
with a basal conglomerate passing upwards into an Upper Triassic
turbidite-shale sequence (dated by ammonoids and bivalves).
A major tectonic event is thus implied, which disrupted the deposition of an older chert sequence, preceding the deposition of the
pre-Semanggol unit at Gunong Semanggol. An early to Middle
Triassic age for this tectonic event is implied but not precisely constrained. A slightly earlier (Early Triassic) closure of Palaeo-Tethys
in the Malay Peninsula compared to a Late Triassic closure in
Thailand is indicated.
3.1.6. SongpanGanzi Suture Knot
The SongpanGanzi suture knot comprises a huge Triassic fold
and thrust belt between North ChinaAla ShanQilianQaidam
Blocks to the north, Tibetan blocks and India to the southwest,
and South China to the southeast (Nie et al., 1994). This zone
was formed by shortening of a remnant segment of the PalaeoTethys ocean and was lled with a thick (515 km) sequence of
turbiditic ysch sediments deposited as large submarine fan
deltas on oceanic crust and thinned continental crust (Roger
et al., 2008). The Triassic sediments are interpreted, based on detrital zircon U/Pb and white mica 40Ar/39Ar provenance studies, to be
derived from surrounding regions of high relief, primarily from the
KunlunQinlingDabie orogenic zone, South China and the Yidun
Arc (Enkelmann et al., 2007).
3.1.7. Song Ma Suture Zone
The nature and age of the Song Ma suture zone, generally regarded as representing a branch of the Palaeo-Tethys and forming
the boundary between the Indochina and South China Blocks, remains controversial. The timing of collision between Indochina
and South China along the Song Ma suture zone has been variably
proposed as Devonian (Janvier et al., 1996; Thanh et al., 1996),
Carboniferous (Tri, 1979; Metcalfe, 1999), Late PermianEarly
Triassic (Lepvrier et al., 1997), Early Triassic (Carter et al., 2001;
Lepvrier et al., 2004, 2008) and Middle Triassic (Zhang et al., in
press-b,c). Serpentinite bodies distributed along the Song Ma

19

suture zone are interpreted as representing original peridotite


(lherzolitic harzburgite), with chromian spinel of YCr = 0.4344
comparable to Tethyan lherzolitic ophiolites (Trung et al., 2006).
Sm/Nd isochron dating of titanites from these serpentinites
(387313 Ma) indicate Middle DevonianCarboniferous crystalization ages (Nguyen Van Vuonga et al., in press). Eclogites and granulites are recorded from the suture zone (Osanai et al., 2008;
Nakano et al., 2010; Chen et al., 2012; Zhang et al., in press-b,c).
These eclogites are variably interpreted as subduction-related
(Nakano et al., 2010; Zhang et al., in press-b,c), or related to plume
activity that produced rifting in the Permian and the Emeishan basalt LIP (Chen et al., 2012). Proposals for northwards directed
PermianTriassic subduction along the Song Ma suture now appear
convincing (Zhang et al., in press-b,c) and Middle PermianEarly
Triassic granitoids along the Trung Song belt are said to record subduction (Liu et al., 2012). Metamorphic ages along the Song Ma
zone are generally PermianTriassic. Pelitic gneiss associated with
granulites along the suture have provided an early Late Triassic
UThPb age of 233 5 Ma and the associated granulites have
been interpreted as having formed in a crustal subduction environment (Nakano et al., 2008). 40Ar39Ar dating of biotite and muscovite along the Trung Song belt yield Early to early Middle Triassic
ages of 250240 Ma (Maluski et al., 2005) indicating an Early
Triassic thermo-tectonic event. Zhang et al. (in press-b,c) report a
UPb SHRIMP zircon age of 230 8.2 Ma (early Late Triassic) for
the Song Ma eclogites and interpret this age to represent the closure age of the Palaeo-Tethys along the Song Ma suture. It seems
however unlikely that this event represents the nal collision
event and closure of a long-lived Palaeo-Tethys in view of evidence
of rifting in Vietnam and South China in the Permo-Triassic (Chen
et al., 2012). Carter et al. (2001) and Carter and Clift (2008) suggest
that there is little evidence to support Indosinian Triassic collision
and mountain building in IndochinaSouth China and that the
Early Triassic thermochronology event relates to the accretion of
Sibumasu to Indochina. A Late Palaeozoic amalgamation of Indochina and South China is here favoured, followed by development
of a narrow ocean basin during Permian plume-driven rifting (concurrent with the Emeishan Large Igneous Province) which then
closed in the Middle-early Late Triassic. A land bridge connection
between Indochina and South China is required in the Late Permian
as indicated by the presence of the tetrapod Dicynodon in Laos
(Battail, 2009). Further work is required on this interesting complex suture zone to resolve conicting models for its evolution.
3.1.8. Dian Qiong Suture
The presence of deep-marine DevonianPermian radiolarian
cherts in the Bancheng and Yulin areas, southern Guangxi, South
China (Wu et al., 1994a,b) along the southern border of the Nanpanjian Basin in South China was interpreted as a failed rift system
developed during the rifting of South China from Gondwana by
Zhao et al. (1996a,b) and Metcalfe (1998). The subsequent discovery of associated mid-ocean ridge basalts and identication of a
central Hainan late Palaeozoic suture zone (Zhou et al., 1999) led
Zhang et al. (2006), Zhang and Cai (2009) and Cai and Zhang
(2009) to propose the DianQiong suture in South China extending
to Hainan Island (Figs. 2, 3 and 9). There now seems little doubt
that this suture represents a segment of the Palaeo-Tethys ocean
and it was likely originally contiguous with the Song Ma suture
zone, now disrupted by Cenozoic strike-slip telescoping. A Triassic
age for this suture suggests that South China and Indochina must
have been separated by an intervening ocean basin in the PermianTriassic. This seems to be at variance with biogeographical
data and other evidence for an earlier suturing between Indochina
and South China along the Song Ma suture zone (see Section 3.1.7)
and evidence of PermianTriassic plume-related rifting in the
region.

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I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

3.1.9. JinshajiangAilaoshan Suture zone


The Ailaoshan and Jinshajiang suture zones are interpreted as
being contiguous and have been interpreted as a back-arc basin
branch of the Palaeo-Tethys ocean between the Simao Block and
South China (Wang et al., 2000) or an Atlantic type Palaeo-Tethyan
ocean basin (Jian et al., 2009), see Fig. 8. Ophiolitic assemblages of
the suture include meta-peridotite, gabbro, diabase and basalt
capped by radiolarian-bearing siliceous rocks. NMORB type ophiolites in the Ailaoshan suture have been dated as Middle-Late Devonian (c. 387374 Ma), and EMORB type ophiolites dated as Lower
Carboniferous (c. 346341 Ma) by Jian et al. (2009). Plagiogranite
(Shuanggou ophiolite) has been dated as latest Devonian (c.
362 Ma) by Jian et al. (1998a,b) and the radiolarian siliceous rocks
are Lower Carboniferous in age (Wang et al., 2000; Yumul et al.,
2008). Olistostromes in the suture comprise fragments of ophiolitic
rocks, graywacke, schist, chert and exotic limestone blocks set in a
turbidite matrix. Clasts in the olistostrome range in age from
Silurian to early Permian. Collision related Triassic volcanic rocks
along the suture zone have recently been dated by Zi et al.
(2012). SHRIMP UPb analyses on zircons give ages of 247
246 Ma for rhyolites of the Pantiange Formation, and ca. 245 Ma
to 237 Ma for basaltic and intermediate-felsic volcanics from the
overlying Cuiyibi Formation. The Ailaoshan and Jinshajiang ocean
basin is thus interpreted to have opened in the Late Devonian
Early Carboniferous and to have closed in the Early Triassic.

yields an early Middle Permian KAr age of 269 12 Ma providing


a minimum metamorphic age (Barr and Macdonald, 1987). Middle
Triassic (Anisian) bedded radiolarian cherts are described from the
suture zone by Saesaengseerung et al. (2008a,b) and suture zone
rocks are overlain by JurassicCretaceous continetal sediments.
The NanUttaradit suture is now interpreted as representing a segment of the Sukhothai back-arc basin which opened in the Carboniferous and closed by the Late Triassic (Ueno and Hisada, 1999;
Wang et al., 2000; Metcalfe, 2002a; Sone and Metcalfe, 2008).
3.2.3. Sra Kaeo Suture
The Sra Kaeo Suture is interpreted as a segment of the Sukhothai back arc basin in southern Thailand and a southwards extension of the NanUttaradit suture. It forms the boundary between
the Chanthaburi terrane (Sukhothai Arc) in the west and the Indochina Block in the east. Ophiolites in the suture are represented by
the Thung Kabin melange and include bedded cherts, limestones,
serpentinites, gabbros, and pillow lavas. Bedded radiolarian cherts
associated with pillow basalts, occurring as clasts in the Thung Kabin melange have been dated as Early Permian and late Middle to
early Late Permian by radiolarians and conodonts (Saesaengseerung
et al., 2008a,b). In addition, cherts from the Chart-Clastic Sequence
(Hada et al., 1999) have been dated as Middle Triassic (Sashida et al.,
1997).
3.3. Meso-Tethys Sutures

3.1.10. Median Sumatra Tectonic Zone


The Median Sumatra Tectonic Zone (Barber et al., 2005; Barber
and Crow, 2009) is a major fault zone running NWSE through
Sumatra (Figs. 2 and 3). The zone forms the boundary between
the Cathaysian West Sumatra Block to the SW and the Gondwanan
Sibumasu Terrane to the NE. The zone comprises highly deformed
rocks including lenses of massive marble, phlogopite, graphitic
marble, scapolitecalc-silicate schist, garnetiferous augen gneiss,
slate, phyllite, biotitegarnetsillimanite schist, biotiteandalusite
hornfels with cordierite, and chiastolite, quartzite, quartzfeldspar
augen gneiss, migmatite, mylonite, and cataclasite, the latter with
horizontal slickensides (Barber and Crow, 2009). The zone does not
contain any ophiolitic components or remnants of rocks that
would represent a former ocean basin and therefore as such does
not represent a true suture. It is interpreted as a major crustal
shear zone or transcurrent fault along which the West Sumatra
and West Burma Blocks were translation westwards from Indochina/South China and emplaced outboard of the Gondwanan
Sibumasu terrane.
3.2. Sukhothai Back-Arc Suture Zones
3.2.1. Jinghong Suture
The Jinghong Suture (Fig. 18A) includes melange, serpentinites
tholeiitic basalts and cherts (Sone and Metcalfe, 2008). Deep-marine radiolarian cherts are of late Early, Middle and Late Permian
age (Feng and Liu, 1993; Feng and Ye, 1996). The suture is equivalent to what has been previously referred to as the Lancangjiang
Belt or the southern Lancangjiang Suture by some authors (Liu
et al., 1991, 1996; Fang et al., 1994, 1996; A short-lived Permian
ocean basin is indicated (Hennig et al., 2009) and this is here interpreted as the northern part of the Sukhothai back arc basin. The
northwards continuation of this suture is unclear.
3.2.2. NanUttaradit Suture
This suture zone forms the boundary between the Sukhothai
Arc and Indochina Block in eastern Thailand. The suture includes
ophiolitc rocks of Permian-Middle Triassic age. The Pha Som Metamorphic Complex within the suture includes blueschists, bedded
charts and basic/ultrabasic igneous rocks. Actinolite in mac schist

3.3.1. BanggongNujiang Suture


The BanggongNujiang Suture extends for 1700 km from Bangong Lake in the west to east of Nujiang in the east and forms
the boundary between the Tibetan Lhasa and South Qiangtang
Terranes (Allgre et al., 1984; Girardeau et al., 1984; Dewey
et al., 1988). The suture represents the Meso-Tethys Ocean, the
remnants of which are preserved sporadically along its length.
The suture was initially recognised and proposed following the discovery of ophiolites that were associated with Jurassic ysch sediments. Ophiolites along the suture zone are dated as Late
TriassicEarly Jurassic (Wang et al., 2008). Serpentinite matrix
melange in the Bangong Lake, Dong Tso and Lagkor Tso areas in
the suture contain blocks of peridotite, mac lavas and dikes, and
amphibolite blocks of both arc and MORB afnity (Wang et al.,
2008; Shi et al., 2008) and these have Early-Middle Jurassic ages.
Wang et al. (2008) propose that the suture zone contains the remnants of a short-lived Middle Jurassic back-arc basin. Deep-marine
pelagic cherts in the suture zone range in age from at least early
Middle Jurassic until well into the Early Cretaceous (Danelian
and Robertson, 1997; Baxter et al., 2009). The youngest magmatic
age from the suture zone is from ophiolitic gabbro, which produced
an early Early Cretaceous UPb single zircon age of 128 Ma (Chen
et al., 2006). The suture is blanketed by Late CretaceousPalaeogene rocks and Middle to Late Cretaceous shortening indicates a
Late Cretaceous suturing age (Kapp et al., 2003, 2007).
3.3.2. Lok Ulo and Meratus Sutures
These suture zones represent the Meso-Tethys/Ceno-Tethys
ocean(s) and forms the boundary between the East JavaWest
Sulawesi Terrane and SW Borneo. Suture zone rocks include pillow
basalt, limestone, chert, siliceous shale, sandstone and shale that
occur as disrupted tectonic blocks or in some cases coherent Ocean
Plate Stratigraphy or as clasts in melange. The youngest clasts in
melange are Early Cretaceous in age. Bedded radiolarian cherts
range in age from early Middle Jurassic to late Early Cretaceous
in the Meratus Suture, and from Early Cretaceous to latest Late
Cretaceous in the Lok Ulo Suture (Wakita, 2000; see Fig. 18B).
Some pillow basalts and associated limestones are interpreted as
accreted sea mounts.

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

3.4. Ceno-Tethys Suture


3.4.1. IndusYarlungTsangpo Suture
This suture forms the boundary between the Indian continent
and the Lhasa Block in Tibet and represents remnants of both
Meso-Tethys and (mainly) Ceno-Tethys. Hbert et al. (2012) review data on ophiolites within the IndusYarlungTsangpo suture
zone and review geochronological and geochemical data for the
various ophiolites. Most of the ophiolites are interpreted as intraoceanic supra-subduction zone generated and ve northwards directed subduction zones are proposed within the Ceno-Tethys
prior to the arrival of India. Northwards Andean type subduction
beneath the Lhasa Block is proposed in the Early Cretaceous. The
earliest radiolarian assemblages from chert sequences within the
IndusYarlungZangbo suture (IYZSZ) are of late Middle to early
Late Triassic (LadinianCarnian) age which are interpreted as representing a rifting marginal basin (Zhu et al., 2005). Baxter et al.
(2011) describe Upper Jurassic (Kimmeridgian lower Tithonian)
radiolarians from cherts within melange that forms part of the
Naga Ophiolite, NE India. This ophiolite suite is regarded as an eastwards extension of the IndusYarlungTsangpo suture zone.
Aitchison et al. (2011) indicate that deep sea sediments in general
range from Early Jurassic to late Early Cretaceous and detrital zircon data indicate that subduction northwards beneath the Lhasa
terrane continued until at least Middle and possibly Late Eocene.
The Xigaze forearc is interpreted to have been translated to its
present position from c. 500 km to the east by oblique subduction.
These authors also continue the proposition of an intra CenoTethyan oceanic arc that collided with India c. 6055 Ma with nal
collision of this Arc (amalgamated to India) with Eurasia at
c.35 Ma. Ophiolite bodies range in age from late Early Jurassic to
middle Late Cretaceous. The suture zone includes what has been
interpreted as intra-oceanic arcs, ophiolites and accretionary complexes formed within the Ceno-Tethys (Aitchison et al., 2011).
Incorporation of some Meso-Tethyan ocean remnants within the
western part of the suture zone is indicated by the presence of Late
Permian Changhsingian seamount limestones in the suture north
of Burang (Wang et al., 2010).

21

4. Dispersion and accretion of terranes/blocks and


palaeogeographic evolution of eastern Tethyan ocean basins
The mid-Palaeozoic to Cenozoic evolution of Gondwana derived
continental terranes and blocks now located in E and SE Asia involved three phases of rifting and separation and northwards
translation of continental slivers or collages of blocks and their
subsequent amalgamation, together with intra-oceanic and continental margin arcs, to form present day Asia. During this process,
three Tethyan ocean basins opened behind separating terranes/
blocks and subsequently closed. These are the Palaeo-Tethys
(DevonianTriassic), Meso-Tethys (late Early Permian-Cretaceous)
and Ceno-Tethys (Late TriassicCretaceous), see Fig. 19.
4.1. Rifting and separation of terranes/blocks from Gondwana
The age of rifting and separation of terranes/blocks from
Gondwana is constrained by some or all of the following: Ocean
oor ages and magnetic stripe data; divergence of Apparent Polar
Wander Paths (APWPs) indicating separation; divergence of palaeolatitudes (indicates separation); age of associated rift volcanism
and intrusives; regional unconformities (formed during pre-rift uplift and during block faulting); major block-faulting episodes and
slumping; palaeobiogeography (development of separate biogeographic provinces after separation); stratigraphy rift sequences
in grabens/half grabens (Metcalfe, 1998).
4.1.1. Devonian rifting and separation
Information on ages of suture zone rocks in the Palaeo-Tethys
suture zones (Fig. 18) indicates that the Palaeo-Tethys opened in
the Middle Devonian following a period of Early Devonian rifting.
Continental blocks that are here interpreted to have separated at
this time are North China, South China, Tarim and Indochina. These
continental blocks all have Gondwanan Sino-Australian province
faunas in the Early Palaeozoic (Figs. 5 and 20) and were located
on the NE margin of Gondwana adjacent to Australia forming a
Greater Gondwana (Fig. 20). The limited palaeomagnetic data
supports the OrdovicianSilurian reconstructions presented in

Fig. 19. Schematic diagram showing times of separation and subsequent collision of the three continental slivers/collages of terranes that rifted from Gondwana and
translated northwards by the opening and closing of three successive oceans, the Palaeo-Tethys, Meso-Tethys and Ceno-Tethys. After Metcalfe (2011b).

22

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 20. Palaeogeographic reconstructions for (A) Early Ordovician and (B) Late Silurian showing the postulated positions of Asian continental blocks on the Himalayan
Australian margin of Gondwana and Sino-Australian province faunas linking the Asian blocks with Australia. I = Indochina/East Malaya/West Sumatra/West Burma;
SQ = South Qiangtang; L = Lhasa; S = Sibumasu. After Metcalfe (2011b).

Fig. 20 (see above discussions of individual blocks and Metcalfe,


2001, 2006, 2011a,b for details). Early Palaeozoic faunas dene a
Sino-Australian province characterising NE Gondwana. By Carboniferous times, North China, South China, Tarim and Indochina exhibit warm-climate equatorial Cathaysian faunas and oras and
there are no Gondwanan elements present (Fig. 5). A clockwise
rotation of these blocks away from Gondwana is consistent with
palaeomagnetic data that indicates a counter-clockwise rotation
of Gondwana about a pole in Australia in the Devonian (Chen
et al., 1993), Fig. 21.

2012), see Fig. 11. During the Permian, faunas and oras of the
Sibumasu Terrane and South Qiangtang Block (eastern Cimmerian
continent) change from cool-climate peri-Gondwanan Indoralian
province faunas in the Early Permian to endemic Sibumasu
province faunas in the late Early Permianearly Middle Permian, to
warm-climate equatorial Cathaysian province faunas in the Late
Permian (Fig. 22) consequent upon the northwards translation of
these blocks (Shi and Archbold, 1998; Fig. 22DF). Palaeomagnetic
data also indicates separation and northwards translation of South
Qiangtang and Sibumasu in the late Early Permian (Figs. 6 and 14).

4.1.2. Early Permian rifting and separation


The presence of Gondwana faunas and oras up until the Early
Permian (Sakmarian), together with the presence of CarboniferousEarly Permian glacial-marine diamictites (Fig. 22C) dictate that the
South Qiangtang Block, Sibumasu Terrane (including Baoshan and
Tengchong Blocks) and the Lhasa Block were all located on the
HimalayaAustralian margin of Gondwana up until the early Early
Permian (Metcalfe, 1988, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2011a,b; Zhang et al.,
in press-a). Early Permian oral distributions show clear provincialism and development of a distinct Cathaysian oral province
on the intra-Tethyan North China, South China and Indochina continental blocks (Fig. 22A and B). Detrital zircon studies also indicate
that these terranes have Gondwanan provenance signatures
(Smyth et al., 2007; Sevastjanova et al., 2011; Hall and Sevastjanova,

4.1.3. Late TriassicLate Jurassic rifting and separation


Evidence of rifting, basin formation, development of unconformities, and sediment source and palaeocurrent data on the NW
Australian margin and in Timor, coupled with offshore ocean oor
magnetic anomaly data (Colwell et al., 1994), suggest that a piece
or pieces of continental crust rifted and separated from Australian
Gondwana in the Late TriassicLate Jurassic. The continental block
that separated from the Argo abyssal plain region in the Jurassic
was named Argo Land (subsequently Argoland) by Veevers
et al. (1991) but not specically identied. Metcalfe (1990, 1996)
identied Argoland as possibly being the West Burma Block, but
recognised that little concrete evidence existed to conrm this.
The report of Permian Cathaysian faunas from West Burma (Oo
et al., 2002) has now ruled out this block as being Argoland. A

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

23

Fig. 21. Reconstructions of eastern Gondwana at (A) DevonianCarboniferous boundary and (B) Early Carboniferous (Visean) times showing the postulated positions of the
East and Southeast Asian terranes. Also shown is the distribution of the endemic Tournaisian brachiopod genus Chuiella and the biogeographic distributions of the conodont
genera Mestognathus (Illustrated specimen is Mestognathus beckmanni from the Kanthan Limestone, Peninsular Malaysia) and Montognathus (Montognathus carinatus from
Peninsular Malaysia illustrated). NC = North China; SC = South China; T = Tarim; I = Indochina/East Malaya/West Sumatra/West Burma; SQ = South Qiangtang; NQQS = North
QiangtangQamdoSimao; L = Lhasa; S = Sibumasu; and WC = Western Cimmerian Continent. After Metcalfe (2011b).

recently identied continental terrane, the East JavaWest Sulawesi Terrane, with Australian basement (Hall et al., 2009; Hall, 2012)
now seems the most likely contender for Argoland. Hall et al.
(2008, 2009) and Hall (2009a,b,2012) have identied Argo and
Banda blocks that separated from the Argo abyssal plain and
Banda embayment, NW Australia respectively in the Jurassic. They
identify the Argo block as the East JavaWest Sulawesi terrane and
the Banda block as SW Borneo (Fig. 3). Deconstruction of the Cathaysian CarboniferousPermian Terbat Limestones from core SW
Borneo and occurrence of probable NW Australian-derived
diamonds (see Section 2.1.18) now supports SW Borneo to be a
candidate for the Banda block.
5. Tectonic and palaeogeographic evolution of eastern Tethyan
basins
The overall evolution of eastern Tethyan basins involves the
opening and closure of three successive ocean basins, the PalaeoTethys, Meso-Tethys and Ceno-Tethys with the concurrent rifting,
separation and northwards movement of three continental strips
or collages of continental blocks from NE Gondwana (Fig. 19).
The northwards migration of terranes/blocks from Gondwana
and constraints on palaeo-positions of terranes is provided by

palaeomagnetism (palaeolatitude, orientation); palaeobiogeography (shifting from one biogeographic province to another due to
drift); and palaeoclimatology (indicates palaeolatitudinal zone).
The ages of suturing (Amalgamation/Accretion) of continental
and arc terranes/blocks are constrained by: Ages of ophiolite; melange ages (pre-suturing); age of stitching plutons (post suturing);
age of collisional or post-collisional plutons (syn to post suturing);
age of volcanic arc (pre-suturing); major changes in arc chemistry
(syn-collisional); convergence of Apparent Polar Wander Paths
(APWPs); loops or disruptions in APWPs (indicates rapid rotations
during collisions); convergence of palaeolatitudes (may indicate
suturing but no control on longitudinal separation); age of blanketing strata (post suturing); Palaeobiogeography (migration of continental animals/plants from one terrane to another indicates
terranes have sutured); stratigraphy/sedimentology (e.g. provenence of sedimentary detritus from one terrane onto another);
and structural geology (age of deformation associated with collision). See Metcalfe (1998) for details.
5.1. Evolution and palaeogeography of the Palaeo-Tethys
Rifting on the NE margin of Gondwna in the early Devonian led
to the separation of North China, Tarim, South China and Indochina

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I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 22. Distribution of Early Permian oral provinces in extant east Asia (A) and on an Early Permian palaeogeographic reconstruction (B); Distribution of Early Permian
glacial-marine diamictites (glacial dropstone shown in inset) and western Australian-derived diamonds in SE Asia (C); and palaeogeographic reconstructions (D, E, F) showing
the changing biotic provinces on the Sibumasu Terrane as it moved northwards from high southern to equatorial latitudes during the Permian (Shi and Archbold, 1998). After
Metcalfe (2002, 2011a,b). WB = West Burma; SWB = South West Borneo; S = Semitau; L = Lhasa; SQT = South Qiangtang; NQ = North Qiangtang; SI = Simao; SG = Songpan
Ganzi accretionary complex; QD = Qaidam; AL = Ala Shan; KT = Kurosegawa Terrane; NC = North China; SC = South China; T = Tarim; I = Indochina/East Malaya/West
Sumatra/West Burma; SQ = South Qiangtang; NQQS = North QiangtangQamdoSimao; S = Sibumasu; and WC = Western Cimmerian Continent.

in the early Middle Devonian. The earliest true pelagic sediments


in the Palao-Tethys are Middle Devonian (Fig. 18) constraining

the opening age of oceanic Palaeo-Tethys. Middle Devonian faunas


on the separating Asian terranes still have some Australian

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

25

Fig. 23. Palaeogeographic reconstructions of the Tethyan region for (A) Early Early Permian (AsselianSakmarian), (B) Late Early Permian (Kungurian) and (C) Late Permian
(Changhsingian) showing relative positions of the East and Southeast Asian terranes and distribution of land and sea. Also shown is the Late Early Permian distribution of
biogeographically important conodonts, and Late Permian tetrapod vertebrate Dicynodon localities on Indochina and Pangea in the Late Permian. SC = South China; T = Tarim;
I = Indochina; EM = East Malaya; WS = West Sumatra; NC = North China; SI = Simao; S = Sibumasu; WB = West Burma; SQ = South Qiangtang; NQQS = North Qiangtang
QamdaoSimao; L = Lhasa; SWB = South West Borneo; and WC = Western Cimmerian Continent. After Metcalfe (2011b).

connections (Fig. 5). By DevonianCarboniferous boundary times


(359 Ma) the Palaeo-Tethys was already a substantial ocean between separating terranes and Gondwana, but there was probably
still a continental connection between separating blocks and
Gondwana in the east. Endemic faunas of South China, including
some sh faunas (Young and Janvier, 1999) and the distinctive
Chuiella brachiopod fauna (Fig. 21), are interpreted to be a result
of the rifting process and isolation of South China on the rifting
continental promontory, and do not necessarily imply continental
separation of South China from the other Asian blocks and Australia at this time. By Carboniferous times, North China, South China,
Tarim and Indochina were located in equatorial to low northern

palaeolatitudes (Li et al., 2004). South China and Indochina/East


Malaya amalgamated within the Palaeo-Tethys. Carboniferous
Permian faunas and oras on these blocks are all warm-climate
equatorial Cathaysian types and do not include any Gondwanan
elements. By the early Early Permian, the Palaeo-Tethys was a substantial ocean (Fig. 23). The Sibumasu Terrane, South Qiangtang,
Lhasa, East JavaWest Sulawesi and SW Borneo Blocks were still
part of the HimalayanAustralian margin of Gondwana and
icebergs derived from the major Gondwanan ice sheets dumped
glacial-marine sediments on Sibumasu, South Qiangtang and Lhasa
in rift grabens (Figs. 12, 13, 22 and 23). Destruction of the main
Palaeo-Tethys ocean basin by subduction northwards beneath

26

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Fig. 24. Palaeogeographic reconstruction of the Tethyan region for the Late Triassic (Rhaetian) showing relative positions of the East and Southeast Asian terranes and
distribution of land and sea. NC = North China; SG = Songpan Ganzi; SC = South China; WC = Western Cimmerian Continent; SQ = South Qiangtang Block; I = Indochina Block;
S = Sibumasu terrane; EM = East Malaya Block; WS = West Sumatra Block; WB = West Burma Block; L = Lhasa Block; EJWS = East JavaWest Sulawesi terrane; SWB = South
West Borneo. After Metcalfe (2011b).

Fig. 25. The three main granite provinces of SE Asia (A) and granite plutons of the Malay Peninsula (B), compiled from Cobbing et al. (1986) and Searle et al. (2012). Ages
shown are all UPb zircon ages (Ages in B from Searle et al., 2012; Ages for the Malay Peninsular 1Liew and Page 1985; 2Liew and McCulloch, 1985; 3 Hotson et al., 2011 and
Oliver et al. 2011; 4Searle et al., 2012).

South ChinaIndochina began in the Early Permian and the Sukhothai Arc was constructed on the margin of Indochina. Continued
subduction of Palaeo-Tethys beneath Indochina and subduction
roll-back led to the opening of an oceanic back arc basin and separation of the Sukhothai Arc during the Permian (Figs. 15 and 23).

The Sukhothai back-arc ocean was narrow and short lived (Early
Permianearly Middle Triassic) as indicated by the restricted range
of pelagic cherts in the back-arc suture zones (Fig. 18). The late
Early Permian saw a second major phase of rifting on the NW
margin of Gondwana (Fig. 23b) and the Cimmerian continental

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

strip, including the South Qiangtang Block and Sibumasu Terrane


separated from Gondwana opening the Meso-Tethys behind it
(Fig. 23c). The South and North China blocks were in close proximity during the Permian. The timing of their collision and welding is
an ongoing controversy with Permian (e.g. Faure et al., 2009; Li and
Li, 2007) and Triassic (e.g. Dong et al., 2012) timings being proposed. Studies of low-grade metamorphics in the Sulu belt (Zhou

27

et al. 2008) and geochronological and structural data (e.g. Faure


et al., 2003, 2009) indicate CarboniferousPermian subduction of
South China beneath North China. Identication of a DevonianTriassic accretionary wedge that includes eclogites, and which formed
a coeval volcano-plutonic arc that stretches from the Longmen
Shan to Korea supports subduction beneath the QinlingSino-Korean plate and a PermianTriassic collision (Hacker et al., 2004).

Fig. 26. Palaeogeographic reconstructions for Eastern Tethys in (A) Late Jurassic, (B) Early Cretaceous, (C) Late Cretaceous and (D) Middle Eocene showing distribution of
continental blocks and fragments of Southeast Asia Australasia and land and sea. After Metcalfe (2011b). SG = Songpan Ganzi accretionary complex; SC = South China; NQ
QS = North Qiangtang-Qamdo Simao; SI = Simao; SQ = South Qiangtang; S = Sibumasu; I = Indochina; EM = East Malaya; WSu = West Sumatra; L = Lhasa; WB = West Burma;
SWB = Southwest Borneo; SE = Semitau; NP = North Palawan and other small continental fragments now forming part of the Philippines basement; Si = Sikuleh;
M = Mangkalihat; WS = West Sulawesi; PB = Philippine Basement; PA = Incipient East Philippine arc; PS = Proto-South China Sea; Z = Zambales Ophiolite; Rb = Reed Bank;
MB = Maccleseld Bank; PI = Paracel Islands; Da = Dangerous Ground; Lu = Luconia; Sm = Sumba. M numbers represent Indian Ocean magnetic anomalies.

28

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

Thus, by Late Triassic times, South ChinaIndochina and North China had collided along the QinlingDabieSula suture, the Sukhothai back-arc basin had collapsed and South QiangtangSibumasu
had collided with Indochina. Strike-slip translation of the West
Sumatra and West Burma Blocks from Indochina westwards to
positions outboard of Sibumasu must have occurred in the Triassic
(Metcalfe, 2011b). These various collisions that began in the Late
Permian and culminated in the Late Triassic gave rise to the Indosinian Orogeny. This orogeny has long been a matter of debate in
terms of its timing and different phases have been recognised. This
is because the orogeny represents multiple collisional events and
far-eld thermo-tectonic events during Permo-Triassic times in
the SE Asian region. By latest Triassic times, the Palaeo-Tethys
had been reduced to a remnant suture knot now represented by
the Songpan Ganzi accretionary complex and proto East and SE
Asia had formed (Fig. 24). The various Palaeo-Tethys suture zones
are blanketed by widespread JurassicCretaceous continental red
bed successions known as the Lufeng Formation in Yunnan, Kalaw
Red Beds in Burma, Grs Superior and Khorat Group in Indochina,
and the Saiong Beds, Raub Red Beds and Tembeling Group in the
Malay Peninsula. During subduction of the Palaeo-Tethys beneath
Indochina, arc-related I-Type granitoids were emplaced (Figs. 15
and 25). These are dated by UPb zircon methods as ranging from
Middle Permian to Middle Triassic (Fig. 25; Searle et al., 2012).
Following collision of the Sibumasu Terrane with the Sukhothai
Arc and Indochina/East Malaya in the Middle-early Late Triassic,
voluminous S-Type granites (Main Range Granite province) were
emplaced (Figs. 15 and 25). These granites stitched the colliding
blocks and also intruded the BentongRaub suture zone rocks
and accretionary complexes in places largely obliterating the
remnants of the Palaeo-Tethys. The Main Range S-Type granites
are dated by UPb zircon techniques as Late TriassicEarly Jurassic
in age (Searle et al., 2012). The huge volume of these S-Type tinbearing granites implies a high degree of melting. This may be
due to slab break-off and rising asthenosphere (Fig. 15) or perhaps
alternatively to basaltic underplating (Searle et al., 2012).
5.2. Evolution and palaeogeography of the Meso-Tethys
The Meso-Tethys ocean opened in the late Early Permian when
the Cimmerian continental strip separated from Gondwana. This
timing coincides, not unexpectedly, with the initiation of destruction of the Palaeo-Tethys northwards by subduction (Figs. 15 and
23). Southwards subduction of Meso-Tethys, beneath HimalayanAustralian Gondwana, began in the Permian and a volcanic
arc was constructed on the Lhasa Block (see Section 2.1.10 and
Fig. 10). Continued southwards subduction then led to the development of a back-arc basin behind the Lhasa Block and its eventual
separation from Gondwana opened the western Ceno-Tethys ocean
in the Late Triassic and then the eastern Ceno-Tethys behind the
separating SW Borneo and East JavaWest Sulawesi terrane in
the Late Jurassic (Fig. 26). Northwards subduction of the
Meso-Tethys beneath the Cimmerian continent began in the Middle Triassic and produced hornblende- and biotite-bearing I-type
granitoids in the western part of Sibumasu (Figs. 15 and 25) dated
recently by Searle et al. (2012) at Phuket Island, Thailand as Late
Triassic (214.4 2.4 Ma by UPb SIMS). The Meso-Tethys ocean is
now represented by the BangongNujiang, Meratus and Lok-Ulo
suture zones. The earliest OIB and OPS so far discovered in these
suture zones is latest Triassic and expected Late PermianTriassic
OPS has not so far been reported (see Sections 3.3.1 and 3.3.2).
Closure of the Meso-Tethys occurred in the Late CretaceousPaleogene. The western segment of the Meso-Tethys (BangongNujiang
ocean (Fig. 26A) closed in the Late Cretaceous when Lhasa collided
with Eurasia. Otofuji et al. (2007) present Jurassic and Cretaceous
palaeomagnetic data from the Lhasa Block and propose that it

was located south of the Qiangtang Block with a latitudinal difference of 31 11 in the Middle Jurassic representing a spatial gap of
more than 1200 km. They propose that this spatial gap can be explained by SE extrusion of the ShanThai Block (Sibumasu) in a
Tapponnier et al. (1982) style extrusion model. Otofuji et al.s
(2007) palaeomagnetic data is however consistent with the model
presented here with a later (Late TriassicEarly Jurassic) rifting and
separation of Lhasa from Gondwana, as opposed to an earlier
rifting of Qiangtang in the Permian (as part of the Cimmerian
continent) and a middle Jurassic placement of Lhasa in equatorial
latitudes still separated from Qiangtang by the remnant
BangongNujiang MesoTethyan ocean.
5.3. Evolution and palaeogeography of the Ceno-Tethys
The Ceno-Tethys ocean opened in two stages, the western CenoTethys opened in the latest Triassicearly Jurassic when the Lhasa
Block separated from the eastern HimalayaPerth Basin Australia
region of the Gondwana margin (Fig. 26A). The new Ceno-Tethys
is interpreted to have been separated from the Meso-Tethys to
the east by a major transform fault. The eastern Ceno-Tethys
opened in the Late Jurassic when the SW Borneo (Banda) and
East JavaWest Sulawesi (Argoland) blocks separated from Western Australian Gondwana (Fig. 26A). The western Ceno-Tethys
closed by collision of India and Eurasia, but the timing of this is
hotly debated, with an early collision of around 60 Ma being favoured by some authors (Yin, 2010), and a much younger EoceneOligocene collision being proposed by others (Aitchison
et al., 2007) who suggest that the collision at c 6055 Ma was between India and an intra-oceanic island arc. It is now reasonably
well established that an intra-ocean island arc existed within the
Ceno-Tethys during the Cretaceous (Aitchison et al., 2000; Khan
et al., 1997, 2009). This island arc has been suggested to be the
Woyla Arc in the east and has been referred to as the Incertus
arc in the west (Hall, 2011). The Incertus arc of Hall (2011) is
here interpreted to be the KohistanLadakh Arc. The KohistanLadakh Arc may have formed as early as c. 135 Ma in the early Cretaceous (Bosch et al., 2011) or even as early as 150 Ma in the Late
Jurassic (Bouilhol et al., 2010) and was equatorial in the Late Cretaceousearly Paleocene (Fig. 26C) based on paleomagnetism
(Khan et al., 2009). Arc magmatism ended by 61 Ma by collision
with India and the arc was then carried forward with India to collide with Asia. Recent UPb/Hf/Nd zircon isotopic data indicates an
abrupt shift from juvenile isotopic signatures in the JurassicEarly
Paleocene to evolved crustal like signatures in the Eocene (Bouilhol
et al., 2011) supporting this contention.
By Middle Eocene times (45 Ma), India (with accreted Kohistan
Ladakh Arc) was probably in initial collision with Eurasia
(Fig. 26D), temporally coincident with large-scale regional and global plate reorganisations at this time (Hall et al., 2009). Timing of
the ultimate hard collision between India and Asia, and hence
nal demise of the western Ceno-Tethys is still equivocal with estimates ranging from 60 Ma (Yin, 2010) to 35 Ma (Ali and Aitchison,
2007, 2008). The Late Jurassic saw the opening of the eastern
Ceno-Tethys ocean behind the separating East JavaWest Sulawesi
and SW Borneo Blocks. Meso-Tethys to the north of these blocks
closed in the Late Cretaceous when these blocks collided and
sutured to Sundaland (Fig. 26B). Remnants of the eastern
Ceno-Tethys still exist to the northwest of Australia to be
ultimately destroyed by collision of Australia with SE Asia.
Acknowledgements
I thank Tony Barber, Robert Hall and Masatoshi Sone for valuable ongoing discussions relating to the tectonic framework and
evolution of SE Asia. Robert Hall and Franoise Roger are thanked

I. Metcalfe / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 66 (2013) 133

for their very thorough reviews that helped to improve the paper
signicantly. The School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England is gratefully thanked for facilities provided.
The Australian Research Council is acknowledged for two large
grants during which much of the work reported here was
undertaken.
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