Speculations on the Paleozoic legacy of Gondwana amalgamation

J. Brendan Murphy, R. Damian Nance, Stephen T. Johnston, Josep M. Casas, Peter A. Cawood, Edward J. Matheson, Peir K. Pufahl, Wei Dan, J. Javier Álvaro, Philip J. Heron, Rob A. Strachan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using Gondwana as an example, we show how the geological record can be interrogated to detect significant changes in mantle convection patterns at critical junctures in Earth’s evolution. Evidence of major changes in mantle circulation in the aftermath of late Neoproterozoic-early Paleozoic Gondwana assembly is provided by widespread (i) plume-related magmatism around Gondwana’s periphery, (ii) ironstone deposits related to mantle plume-ocean ridge interaction and enhanced hydrothermal activity, and (iii) super-mature clastic deposits that reflect epeirogenic uplift triggered by mantle upwelling beneath Gondwana combined with deep tropical weathering.

In our model, Gondwana assembled above a region of mantle downwelling in which subducted slabs between the converging Gondwanan continents descended to the core-mantle boundary. Renewed subduction along Gondwana’s periphery yielded early arc magmas. But as downwelling beneath Gondwana evolved into upwelling as a result of the ponding of subducted slabs at the base of the mantle, mantle plumes rose from the margins of the nascent upwelling to interact with the edges of Gondwana, where they penetrated the peripheral subduction zones via slab windows, tears and transform faults to generate voluminous calc-alkalic crustal melts in hydrated arc regions and A-type magmas in dry back-arc regions. The plumes also underplated oceanic lithosphere and interacted with adjacent ocean ridges, thereby enhancing hydrothermal activity and the flux of bioessential nutrients, leading to the recurrence of marine iron-rich sedimentary rocks in the geological record. At the same time, upwelling beneath a tropical to equatorial Gondwana led to epeirogenic uplift, deep weathering and erosion, resulting in the production of widespread super-mature clastic deposits. We contend that major changes in mantle convection patterns were encoded into the geological record of Gondwana assembly, influenced global-scale mantle convection patterns, and should be incorporated into geodynamic models for the assembly of Pangea.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-131
JournalGondwana Research
Early online date30 Dec 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 30 Dec 2023


  • Gondwana assembly and mantle convection
  • Mantle plumes along Gondwana periphery
  • Arc-plume interaction
  • Ironstone deposits
  • Super-mature clastic deposits

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