Evidence of micro-continent entrainment during crustal accretion

S. Pilia, N. Rawlinson, R. A. Cayley, T. Bodin, R. Musgrave, A. M. Reading, N. G. Direen, M. K. Young

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Simple models involving the gradual outboard accretion of material along curvilinear subduction zones are often inconsistent with field-based evidence. A recent study using 3-D geodynamic modelling has shown that the entrainment of an exotic continental fragment within a simple subduction system can result in a complex phase of growth. Although kinematic models based on structural mapping and high-resolution gravity and magnetic maps indicate that the pre-Carboniferous Tasmanides in southeastern Australia may have been subjected to this process, to date there has been little corroboration from crustal scale geophysical imaging. Here, we apply Bayesian transdimensional tomography to ambient noise data recorded by the WOMBAT transportable seismic array to constrain a detailed (20 km resolution in some areas) 3-D shear velocity model of the crust beneath southeast Australia. We find that many of the velocity variations that emerge from our inversion support the recently developed geodynamic and kinematic models. In particular, the full thickness of the exotic continental block, responsible for orocline formation and the tectonic escape of the back arc region, is imaged here for the first time. Our seismic results provide the first direct evidence that exotic continental fragments may profoundly affect the development of an accretionary orogen.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8218
Number of pages6
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date3 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2015


  • seismic imaging
  • tectonic evolution
  • Australia
  • Gondwana evolution
  • geology
  • geophysics
  • tectonics


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