Constraints on the collision and the pre-collision tectonic configuration between India and Asia from detrital geochronology, thermochronology, and geochemistry studies in the lower Indus basin, Pakistan

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Knowledge of the timing of India-Asia collision is a fundamental prerequisite for understanding the evolution of the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen and its role in global climate, oceanic chemistry, and ecological evolution. Despite much active research, the basic pre-collision tectonic configuration and the timing of terminal India-Asia suturing remain debated. For example, debates regarding when and how the intervening Kohistan-Ladakh arc was sutured with India and Asia still remain elusive; some models propose the arc collided with Asia at about 100 Ma, with India-Asia collision at ca. 55 Ma, whilst a newer model proposed the arc's collision with India at 50 Ma and subsequently with Asia at 40 Ma. Another example is the recent proposition that an oceanic Greater India Basin separated the Tethyan Himalaya microcontinent from the remaining Indian plate until 20-25 Ma with the consumption of this oceanic basin marking the final collision at this time. These controversies relate to whether the commonly documented 50 Ma contact represents the terminal India-Asia suturing or the amalgamation between various arcs or microcontinents with India or Asia. Here we present an integrated provenance study of geochronology, thermochronology, and geochemistry on the late Cretaceous-Pleistocene sediments from the lower Indus basin on the Indian plate. The detrital zircon U-Pb and fission track data show a reversal in sediment source from a pure Indian signature to increasing inputs from the suture zone and the Asian plate between the middle Paleocene and early Oligocene. The Nd and Sr isotopes narrow down this change to 50 Ma by revealing input of Asian detritus and the establishment of a Nd & Sr isotopic pattern similar to the present-day Indus Fan by 50 Ma, with no significant variations up section, contrary to what might be expected if later major collisions had occurred. Our isotopic data indicate that Greater India was occupied by a fluvial-deltaic system, analogous to the present-day Indus and named as the Paleo-Indus, which has been transporting Asian detritus southward across the suture zone and Kohistan-Ladakh arc since 50 Ma, suggesting no other ocean basins intervened between India and Asia after this time in this region. Our data require that in the west the India-Asia collision were accomplished by ~50 Ma.

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters

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