High-grade calcareous metasediments from the Sawtooth Metamorphic Complex, Idaho, USA: evidence for passive margin strata and polymetamorphism within the Idaho batholith

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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The Sawtooth Metamorphic Complex (SMC) of central Idaho contains exposures of metasupracrustal rocks, in a crucial location between the Archaean Wyoming craton to the east and the adjacent Mesozoic terranes to the west, that provide constraints on Precambrian crustal evolution in the northwestern United States. Mineral textures, whole-rock geochemistry, and thermobarometry of calc-silicate gneisses record multiple stages of crustal evolution, including protolith deposition, burial and multiple metamorphic and deformational overprints. Whole-rock signatures are consistent with derivation from post-Archaean, continental sources that have undergone sedimentary maturation and recycling typical of clastic sedimentation in passive-margin environments and with a metamorphosed sequence of calcareous sandstones and marls, containing varying proportions of clay and quartzo-feldspathic detritus. The sandstone-to-marl continuum may reflect a shallow-to-deep water transition in the depositional environment of the calc-silicate protoliths. Two metamorphic events and three deformational events are preserved. The assemblage clinopyroxene + quartz + plagioclase + K-feldspar + rutile represents peak metamorphic conditions (M1), estimated at 750–775°C with relatively oxidized metamorphic fluids, during development of D1a foliation. Deformation twinning in clinopyroxene records a widespread, high strain D1b event at high temperature. A second static thermal event (M2), associated with randomly oriented amphiboles overprinting M1 and D1b features, records conditions of ~550–725°C and H2O-rich fluids. Late-stage, brittle–ductile D2 deformation is characterized by mylonitic lenses of quartz, fractures within M1 clinopyroxenes that crosscut D1b deformation twins, and localized fracturing of M2 amphiboles. Geochemical and mineral chemical signatures of SMC calc-silicates preserve fingerprints of the original protolith through burial to mid-crustal conditions and high-grade metamorphism and suggest crustal thickening to about 20 km. The SMC may reflect rocks at depth beneath the Idaho batholith. These data, indicative of newly recognized post-Archaean terrain with passive-margin, continental sediments suggest that a continuous Cordilleran passive margin sequence may have extended along the western edge of Laurentia.

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International Geology Review

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