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Exhumation of the Coyote Mountains metamorphic core complex (Arizona): Implications for orogenic collapse of the southern North American Cordillera.

June 10, 2020

A microstructural and thermochronometric analysis of the Coyote Mountains detachment shear zone provides new insight into the collapse of the southern North American Cordillera. The Coyote Mountains is a metamorphic core complex that makes up the northern end of the Baboquivari Mountains in southern Arizona. The Baboquivari Mountains records several episodes of crustal shortening and thickening and regional metamorphism, including the Late Cretaceous‐early Paleogene Laramide orogeny which is locally expressed by the Baboquivari thrust fault. Thrusting and shortening were accompanied by magmatic activity recorded by intrusion of Paleocene muscovite‐biotite‐garnet peraluminous granites such as the ~58 Ma Pan Tak Granite, interpreted as anatectic melts representing the culmination of the Laramide orogeny. Following Laramide crustal shortening, the northern end of the Baboquivari Mountains was exhumed along a top‐to‐the‐north detachment shear zone, which resulted in the formation of the Coyote Mountains metamorphic core complex. Structural and microstructural analysis show that the detachment shear zone evolved under a strong component of noncoaxial (simple shear) deformation, at deformation conditions of ~450 ± 50°C, under a differential stress of ~60 MPa, and a strain rate of 1.5 × 10−11 to 5.0 × 10−13 s−1 at depth of ~11–14 km. Detailed 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of biotite and muscovite, in the context of the deformation conditions determined by quartz microstructures, suggests that the mylonitization associated with the formation of the Coyote Mountains metamorphic core complex started at ~29 Ma (early Oligocene). Apatite fission track ages indicate that the footwall of the Coyote Mountains metamorphic core complex experienced rapid exhumation to the upper crust by ~24 Ma. The fact that mylonitization and rapid extensional exhumation postdates Laramide thickening by ~30 Myr indicates that crustal thickness alone was insufficient to initiate extensional tectonic and required an additional driving force. The timing of mylonitization and rapid exhumation documented here and in other MCCs are consistent with the hypothesis that slab rollback and the effect of a slab window trailing the Mendocino Triple Junction have been critical in driving the development of the MCCs of the southwest.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Exhumation of the Coyote Mountains metamorphic core complex (Arizona): Implications for orogenic collapse of the southern North American Cordillera.
DOI 10.1029/2019TC006050
Authors Raphael Gottardi, Ryan J. McAleer, Gabriele Casale, Megan Borel, Alexander Iriondo, Gilby Jepson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Tectonics
Series Number
Index ID 70213545
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization