Link between SSZ ophiolite formation, emplacement and arc inception, Northland, New Zealand: U-Pb SHRIMP constraints; Cenozoic SW Pacific tectonic implications

Scott A. Whattam, John Malpas, Ian E.M. Smith, Jason R. Ali

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42 Citations (Scopus)


New U-Pb age-data from zircons separated from a Northland ophiolite gabbro yield a mean 206Pb/238U age of 31.6 ± 0.2 Ma, providing support for a recently determined 28.3 ± 0.2 Ma SHRIMP age of an associated plagiogranite and ∼ 29-26 Ma 40Ar/39Ar ages (n = 9) of basalts of the ophiolite. Elsewhere, Miocene arc-related calc-alkaline andesite dikes which intrude the ophiolitic rocks contain zircons which yield mean 206Pb/238U ages of 20.1 ± 0.2 and 19.8 ± 0.2 Ma. The ophiolite gabbro and the andesites both contain rare inherited zircons ranging from 122-104 Ma. The Early Cretaceous zircons in the arc andesites are interpreted as xenocrysts from the Mt. Camel basement terrane through which magmas of the Northland Miocene arc lavas erupted. The inherited zircons in the ophiolite gabbros suggest that a small fraction of this basement was introduced into the suboceanic mantle by subduction and mixed with mantle melts during ophiolite formation. We postulate that the tholeiitic suite of the ophiolite represents the crustal segment of SSZ lithosphere (SSZL) generated in the southern South Fiji Basin (SFB) at a northeast-dipping subduction zone that was initiated at about 35 Ma. The subduction zone nucleated along a pre-existing transform boundary separating circa 45-20 Ma oceanic lithosphere to the north and west of the Northland Peninsula from nascent back arc basin lithosphere of the SFB. Construction of the SSZL propagated southward along the transform boundary as the SFB continued to unzip to the southeast. After subduction of a large portion of oceanic lithosphere by about 26 Ma and collision of the SSZL with New Zealand, compression between the Australian Plate and the Pacific Plate was taken up along a new southwest-dipping subduction zone behind the SSZL. Renewed volcanism began in the oceanic forearc at 25 Ma producing boninitic-like, SSZ and within-plate alkalic and calc-alkaline rocks. Rocks of these types temporally overlap ophiolite emplacement and subsequent Miocene continental arc construction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-632
Number of pages27
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Oct 30


  • Northland arc
  • Northland ophiolite
  • SSZ lithosphere (SSZL)
  • SW Pacific
  • South Fiji Basin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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