Geological reconstructions of the East Asian blocks: From the breakup of Rodinia to the assembly of Pangea
Pangea is the youngest supercontinent in Earth's history and its main body formed by assembly of Gondwana and Laurasia about 300-250 Ma ago. As supported by voluminous evidence from reliable geological, paleomagnetic and paleontological data, configurations of major continental blocks in Pangea have been widely accepted. However, controversy has long surrounded the reconstructions of East Asian blocks in Pangea. To determine whether or not the East Asian blocks were assembled to join Pangea before its breakup, we carried out geological and paleomagnetic investigations on East Asian blocks and associated orogenic belts, supported by a NSFC Major Program entitle "Reconstructions of East Asian blocks in Pangea". Our results indicate that the breakup of Rodinia around 750 Ma ago led to the opening of the Proto-Tethys and Paleo-Asian oceans in East Asia, with the former separating the South China, North China, Alex Qaidam and Tarim blocks from other East Asian blocks at the margins of Australia and India, whereas the Paleo-Asian Ocean existed between the East Asian blocks and Siberia-Eastern Europe. The Proto-Tethys Ocean closed in the early Paleozoic (500-420 Ma), leading to the collision of South China, North China, Alex, Qaidam and Tarim with other East Asian blocks at the northern margin of Gondwana. The subduction of the Paleo-Asian Ocean formed the Central Asian Orogenic Belt, the largest accretionary orogen in Earth's history, and its closure was diachronous, with its western, central and eastern segments closing at 310-280 Ma, 280-265 Ma and 260-245 Ma, respectively, leading the Tarim, Alex and North China blocks to join Eastern Europe-Siberia as part of Pangea. During the early Devonian (420-380 ma), the East Paleo-Tethys Ocean opened with two branches, of which the north branch is called the Mianlue Ocean that separated the Tarim-Qaidam-Central Qilian-Alex and North China blocks in the north from North Qiangtang-Indochina-South China in the south, and the south branch is the stricto sensu East Paleo-Tethys Ocean that separated North Qiangtang-Indochina-South China from the Sibumasu and South Qiangtang-Lhasa blocks at the northern margin of Gondwana. In the Triassic, the East Paleo-Tethys Ocean (stricto sensu) closed along the Longmu Co - Shuanghu - Changning - Menglian - Inthanon belt, leading to the collision of North Qiangtang-Indochina-South China with Sibumasu and South Qiangtang-Lhasa, forming a single southern continent, which then collided with the Tarim-Qaidam-Central Qilian-Alex and North China blocks to form a coherent East Asian continent that had become part of Pangea by 220 Ma, when the Mianlue Ocean closed, leading to the formation of the E-W-trending Central China Orogenic System.