Paleozoic ophiolites in the Variscan suture of Galicia (northwest Spain): Distribution, characteristics, and meaning

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Allochthonous ophiolitic units in the northwestern Iberian Massif are remnants of peri-Gondwanan Paleozoic oceans sandwiched among other exotic terranes of continental and volcanic-arc derivation. All these terranes defi ne an intricate suture zone that marks the convergence and collision between Laurussia and Gondwana. The suture is defi ned by three different ophiolitic ensembles: upper ophiolitic units, lower ophiolitic units, and the Somozas mélange. The lower ophiolitic units were derived from an alternation of basalts and sediments intruded by gabbros and scarce granitoids, and they formed during the opening of a marginal basin, the Galician ocean, during Late Cambrian to Early Ordovician time. This ocean was created as a back arc by the severance of a volcanic arc that had developed at the northern margin of Gondwana and formed part of the Rheic oceanic realm. The upper ophiolitic units formed during the Early Devonian from intraoceanic subduction in the early Paleozoic lithosphere of the Rheic Ocean. These suprasubduction ophiolites were formed just before the ocean closed, preceding the collision between Gondwana and Laurussia. The Somozas mélange appears in an anomalous position at the base of the Cabo Ortegal Complex. The ophiolites involved in this tectonic mélange represent an imbricate of highly dismembered oceanic lithosphere, slivers of subducted outer edge of the Gondwanan continental margin, and Paleozoic metasediments of the northern Gondwanan platform. The ophiolites might either record the development of a different peri-Gondwanan oceanic domain, or they might be equivalent to any of the other ophiolitic ensembles, and their anomalous structural position is simply a consequence of complex thrusting.
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