The eastern Himalayan syntaxis has experienced some of the highest rates of deformation and erosion in the orogen during the Late Cenozoic, and the Yarlung Tsangpo, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Salween, and Mekong rivers are the key erosional systems in that region. The Yarlung Tsangpo drains southern Tibet and the deep Siang River gorge through the eastern Himalayan syntaxis before joining the Brahmaputra in northeastern India. It has been proposed that the Yarlung Tsangpo drained into other large rivers of southern Asia, such as the Irrawaddy, Salween and Red River. We have used uranium/lead dating and hafnium measurements of detrital zircons from Cenozoic sedimentary deposits in Central Myanmar to demonstrate that the Yarlung Tsangpo formerly drained into the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar through the eastern syntaxis, and that this ancient river system was established by (at least) the Middle–Late Eocene. The Yarlung Tsangpo–Irrawaddy river disconnected in the Early Miocene driven by increased deformation in the eastern syntaxis and headward erosion by tributaries of the Brahmaputra. Our results highlight the significance of the sedimentary record of large orogen-parallel rivers and provide key chronological constraints on landscape evolution during the Early Miocene phase of the Himalayan orogeny.
- NIGL IP/943/1106