Avalonia, get bent! – Paleomagnetism from SW Iberia confirms the Greater Cantabrian Orocline


The amalgamation of Pangea formed the contorted Variscan-Alleghanian orogen, suturing Gondwana and Laurussia during the Carboniferous. From all swirls of this orogen, a double curve in Iberia stands out, the coupled Cantabrian Orocline and Central Iberian curve. The Cantabrian Orocline formed at ca. 315–290 Ma subsequent to the Variscan orogeny. The formation mechanism of the Cantabrian Orocline is disputed, the most commonly proposed mechanisms include either (1) that south-westernmost Iberia would be an Avalonian (Laurussian) indenter or (2) that the stress field changed, buckling the orogen. In contrast, the geometry and kinematics of the Central Iberian curve are largely unknown. Whereas some authors defend both curvatures are genetically linked, others support they are distinct and formed at different times. Such uncertainty adds an extra layer of complexity to our understanding of the final stages of Pangea’s amalgamation. To solve these issues, we study the late Carboniferous– early Permian vertical-axis rotations of SW Iberia with paleomagnetism. Our results show up to 70° counterclockwise vertical-axis rotations during late Carboniferous times, concurring with the anticipated kinematics if SW Iberia was part of the southern limb of the Cantabrian Orocline. Our results do not allow the necessary penecontemporaneous clockwise rotations in Central Iberia to support a concomitant formation of both Cantabrian and Central Iberian curvature. The coherent rotation of both Gondwanan and Avalonian pieces of SW Iberia discards the Laurussian indenter hypothesis as a formation mechanism of the Cantabrian Orocline and confirms the Greater Cantabrian Orocline hypothesis. The Greater Cantabrian Orocline likely formed as a consequence of a change in the stress field during the late Carboniferous and extended beyond the Rheic Ocean suture affecting the margins of both Laurussia and Gondwana.

Geosciences Frontiers, Volume 12, Issue 2, 2021, Pages 805-825; DOI: 10.1016/j.gsf.2020.07.013