Detrital zircon ages of Neoproterozoic sequences of the Moroccan Anti-Atlas belt

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Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam
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Detrital zircon dating from Neoproterozoic successions in the Sirwa inlier of the Anti-Atlas belt in Morocco confirms that the maximum depositional age of the main stratigraphic groups is significantly younger than has been previously proposed in lithostratigraphic correlations. This can probably be extended to the whole Anti-Atlas according to other recent data from the Saghro inlier. Although the relative stratigraphic position of the different units remains valid as published previously, a crucial implication of the new ages is that the sequences believed to be contemporaneous with oceanic crust and island arc formation during the rifting and break-up of the northern margin of the West African Craton (WAC), and believed to be involved in the first phases of the Pan-African orogeny, are actually late to postorogenic. The age of the main deformation associated with the collision of the oceanic- and arc-derived terranes to the WAC, allegedly affecting the sediments of the Saghro Group, has been estimated at around 663–640 Ma. However, the youngest zircon populations of sediments of the Saghro and Bou Salda Groups, obtained in this study, cluster around 620–610 Ma, constraining the maximum age of deposition. This age of sedimentation is indistinguishable from the age of intrusive high-K calc-alkaline plutons of the Assarag Suite, suggesting a very rapid cycle of magmatism, relief formation, erosion and sedimentation in an active geodynamic scenario. Moreover, the proportion of the 610Ma detrital zircons becomes less with respect to the Paleoproterozoic zircons at higher stratigraphic levels, suggesting that the source of young zircons was progressively eroded and more extensive cratonic areas, that probably underlie the Neoproterozoic rocks, were exposed. We interpret these data in terms of the development of a ca. 610Ma magmatic arc, built upon WAC basement, and its progressive dismantling. This arc can be correlated with the voluminous late Neoproterozoic (ca. 640–570 Ma) arc magmatism characteristic of the north Gondwana margin and the peri-Gondwanan terranes. The diamictite beds that appear in the Imghi Formation of the Saghro Group have been correlated with the Sturtian glacial period ca. 700 Ma. However, zircons from one sample of these diamictites indicate that this correlation cannot be longer maintained, and instead they should be correlated with the Marinoan glacial period ca. 630–610 Ma, with a widespread distribution of glaciogenic deposits in West Africa. In addition, around 375 U–Pb concordant analyses obtained from Paleoproterozoic zircons from six samples represent a statistically significant population of this area of theWACbasement, which can be a useful database for comparison with the detrital zircon populations of the peri-Gondwanan terranes of Europe and North America, as the WAC margins were one of the major sediment suppliers for these terranes.
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