New constraints on volcanism during Ordovician-Silurian transition: Insights from marine bentonites in northern Yili Block (NW China)

Yanjun Wang, Bo Wang, Ming Li, Shengnan Cao, Hongbin Wang, Shuxin Pan, Juanjuan Guo, Delong Ma, Fang Song, Tingting Cao, Inna Y. Safonova, Linglin Zhong, Xinghua Ni

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The Yili Block is located at the Chinese western Tianshan and is a constituent of the Kazakhstan microcontinent. It played an important role in the evolution of the SW Central Asian Orogenic Belt (CAOB). The Yili Block underwent the Paleozoic orogeny during the subduction and closure of the Junggar Ocean. Late Paleozoic arc-type magmatic rocks have been widely recorded in the Yili Block; however, it remains poorly constrained when and how the Junggar Ocean started to subduct beneath the Yili Block. In this study, we report new results of zircon LA-ICP-MS U[sbnd]Pb dating and Lu[sbnd]Hf isotopic analysis on a series of bentonite beds in tightly folded upper Ordovician siliceous black shales of the Guozigou Section in the northern Yili Block. The occurrence of bentonite layers and associated sulfides within graptolite-bearing siliceous black shales indicates multiple marine volcanic eruptions. Magmatic zircons separated from seven representative bentonite samples yielded consistent U[sbnd]Pb ages ranging from 449.5 ± 2.4 Ma to 444.8 ± 2.0 Ma (Katian). In situ zircon Lu[sbnd]Hf isotopic analyses show mostly positive εHf(t) values (−0.01 and 1.31 to 11.7) and Neoproterozoic single-stage Hf model ages (TDM1 = 0.6– 1.0 Ga). A linear correlation between the εHf(t) and TDM1 suggests that these zircons likely crystallized from a common magma originated from a depleted mantle source with variable involvement of Precambrian continental crust. Our new zircon ages and Hf isotopic data are comparable with those of the Middle-Late Ordovician continental arc-type magmatic rocks in the nearby Wenquan area, both indicating that the subduction of the Junggar Ocean beneath the northern Yili Block started in the Middle-Late Ordovician, and are therefore important for early Paleozoic paleogeographic and tectonic reconstruction of the Paleo-Asian Ocean domain. In addition, the Late Ordovician marine bentonites and black shales coincide with the worldwide intensive volcanic activities and related climate/environment changes during late Katian to Hirnantian. Thus, these new data also provide further arguments for possible causes of the global climate change and mass extinction during the Ordovician-Silurian transition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111073
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2022


  • Central Asian Orogenic Belt
  • Junggar Ocean
  • North Tianshan (Tien Shan)
  • Ordovician-Silurian transition
  • Paleogeographic reconstruction
  • Subduction-related magmatism




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