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The Geochronology of the Plutonic and Metamorphic Rocks of New Zealand


Aronson, James Louis (1966) The Geochronology of the Plutonic and Metamorphic Rocks of New Zealand. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/GZ9M-GP33.


Extensive Rubidium-Strontium age determinations on both mineral and total rock samples of the crystalline rocks of New Zealand, which almost solely crop out in the South Island, indicate widespread plutonic and metamorphic activity occurred during two periods, one about 100-118 million years ago and the other about 340-370 million years ago. The former results date the Rangitata Orogeny as Cretaceous. They associate extensive plutonic activity with this orogeny which uplifted and metamorphosed the rocks of the New Zealand Geosyncline, although no field association between the metamorphosed geosynclinal rocks and plutonic rocks has been found. The Cretaceous plutonic rocks occur to the west in the Foreland Province in Fiordland, Nelson, and Westland, geographically separated from the Geosynclinal Province. Because of this synchronous timing of plutonic and high pressure metamorphic activity in spatially separated belts, the Rangitata Orogeny in New Zealand is very similar to late Mesozoic orogenic activity in many other areas of the circum-Pacific margin (Miyashiro, 1961).

The 340-370 million year rocks, both plutonic and metamorphic, have been found only in that part of the Foreland Province north of the Alpine Fault. There, they are concentrated along the west coast over a distance of 500 km, and appear scattered inland from the coast. Probably this activity marks the outstanding Phanerozoic stratigraphic gap in New Zealand which occurred after the Lower Devonian.

A few crystalline rocks in the Foreland Province north of the Alpine Fault with measured ages intermediate between 340 and 120 million years have been found. Of these, those with more than one mineral examined give discordant results. All of these rocks are tentatively regarded as 340-370 million year old rocks that have been variously disturbed during the Rangitata Orogeny, 100-120 million years ago.

In addition to these two periods, plutonic activity, dominantly basic and ultrabasic, but including the development of some rocks of intermediate and acidic composition, occurred along the margin of the Geosynclinal Province at its border with the Foreland Province during Permian times about 245 million years ago, and this activity possibly extended into the Mesozoic.

Evidence from rubidium-strontium analyses of minerals and a total rock, and from uranium, thorium, and lead analyses of uniform euhedral zircons from a meta-igneous portion of the Charleston Gneiss, previously mapped as Precambrian, indicate that this rock is a 350-370 million year old plutonic rock metamorphosed 100 million yea rs ago during the Rangitata Orogeny. No crystalline rocks with primary Precambrian ages have been found in New Zealand. However, Pb207/Pb206 ages of 1360 million years and 1370 million years have been determined for rounded detrital zircons separated from each of two hornfels samples of one of New Zealand's olde st sedimentary units, the Greenland Series. These two samples were metamorphosed 345- 370 million years ago. They occur along the west coast, north of the Alpine Fault, at Waitaha River and Moeraki River, separated by 135 km. The Precambrian measured ages are most likely minimum ages for the oldest source area which provided the detrital zircons because the uranium, thorium and lead data are highly discordant. These results are of fundamental importance for the tectonic picture of the Southwest Pacific margin and demonstrate the existence of relatively old continental crust of some lateral extent in the neighborhood of New Zealand.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:(Geochemistry and Geology)
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geochemistry
Minor Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Wasserburg, Gerald J.
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:10 May 1966
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03102016-141714720
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9610
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:10 Mar 2016 23:03
Last Modified:27 Feb 2024 20:00

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