A precise age for the collision of the Kohistan-Ladakh block with Eurasia along the Shyok suture zone (SSZ) is one key to understanding the accretionary history of Tibet and the tectonics of Eurasia during the India-Eurasia collision. Knowing the age of the SSZ also allows the suture to be used as a piercing line for calculating total offset along the Karakoram Fault, which effectively represents the SE border of the Tibetan Plateau and has played a major role in plateau evolution. We present a combined structural, geochemical, and geochronologic study of the SSZ as it is exposed in the Nubra region of India to test two competing hypotheses: that the SSZ is of Late Cretaceous or, alternatively, of Eocene age. Coarse-continental strata of the Saltoro Molasse, mapped in this area, contain detrital zircon populations suggestive of derivation from Eurasia despite the fact that the molasse itself is deposited unconformably onto Kohistan-Ladakh rocks, indicating that the molasse is postcollisional. The youngest population of detrital zircons in these rocks (approximately 92 Ma) and a U/Pb zircon date for a dike that cuts basal molasse outcrops (approximately 85 Ma) imply that deposition of the succession began in the Late Cretaceous. This establishes a minimum age for the SSZ and rules out the possibility of an Eocene collision between Kohistan-Ladakh and Eurasia. Our results support correlation of the SSZ with the Bangong suture zone in Tibet, which implies a total offset across the Karakoram Fault of approximately 130-190 km.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology