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  1. The relationships between brittle detachment faulting and ductile shear zones in metamorphic core complexes are often ambiguous. Although it is commonly assumed that these two structures are kinematically linked and genetically related, direct observations of this coupling are rare. Here, we conducted a detailed field investigation to probe the connection between a detachment fault and mylonitic shear zone in the Ruby Mountain–East Humboldt Range metamorphic core complex, northeast Nevada. Field observations, along with new and published geochronology, demonstrate that Oligocene top-to-the-west mylonitic shear zones are crosscut by ca. 17 Ma subvertical basalt dikes, and these dikes are in turn truncated by middle Miocene detachment faults. The detachment faults appear to focus in preexisting weak zones in shaley strata and Mesozoic thrust faults. We interpret that the Oligocene mylonitic shear zones were generated in response to domal upwelling during voluminous plutonism and partial melting, which significantly predated the middle Miocene onset of regional extension and detachment slip. Our model simplifies mechanical issues with low-angle detachment faulting because there was an initial dip to the weak zones exploited by the future detachment-fault zone. This mechanism may be important for many apparent low-angle normal faults in the eastern Great Basin. We suggest that the temporal decoupling of mylonitic shearing and detachment faulting may be significant and underappreciated for many of the metamorphic core complexes in the North American Cordillera. In this case, earlier Eocene–Oligocene buoyant doming may have preconditioned the crust to be reactivated by Miocene extension thus explaining the spatial relationship between structures. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 20, 2024
  2. Abstract The Ruby Mountains–East Humboldt Range–Wood Hills–Pequop Mountains (REWP) metamorphic core complex, northeast Nevada, exposes a record of Mesozoic contraction and Cenozoic extension in the hinterland of the North American Cordillera. The timing, magnitude, and style of crustal thickening and succeeding crustal thinning have long been debated. The Pequop Mountains, comprising Neoproterozoic through Triassic strata, are the least deformed part of this composite metamorphic core complex, compared to the migmatitic and mylonitized ranges to the west, and provide the clearest field relationships for the Mesozoic–Cenozoic tectonic evolution. New field, structural, geochronologic, and thermochronological observations based on 1:24,000-scale geologic mapping of the northern Pequop Mountains provide insights into the multi-stage tectonic history of the REWP. Polyphase cooling and reheating of the middle-upper crust was tracked over the range of <100 °C to 450 °C via novel 40Ar/39Ar multi-diffusion domain modeling of muscovite and K-feldspar and apatite fission-track dating. Important new observations and interpretations include: (1) crosscutting field relationships show that most of the contractional deformation in this region occurred just prior to, or during, the Middle-Late Jurassic Elko orogeny (ca. 170–157 Ma), with negligible Cretaceous shortening; (2) temperature-depth data rule out deep burial of Paleozoic stratigraphy, thus refuting models that incorporate large cryptic overthrust sheets; (3) Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Eocene intrusions and associated thermal pulses metamorphosed the lower Paleozoic–Proterozoic rocks, and various thermochronometers record conductive cooling near original stratigraphic depths; (4) east-draining paleovalleys with ∼1–1.5 km relief incised the region before ca. 41 Ma and were filled by 41–39.5 Ma volcanic rocks; and (5) low-angle normal faulting initiated after the Eocene, possibly as early as the late Oligocene, although basin-generating extension from high-angle normal faulting began in the middle Miocene. Observed Jurassic shortening is coeval with structures in the Luning-Fencemaker thrust belt to the west, and other strain documented across central-east Nevada and Utah, suggesting ∼100 km Middle-Late Jurassic shortening across the Sierra Nevada retroarc. This phase of deformation correlates with terrane accretion in the Sierran forearc, increased North American–Farallon convergence rates, and enhanced Jurassic Sierran arc magmatism. Although spatially variable, the Cordilleran hinterland and the high plateau that developed across it (i.e., the hypothesized Nevadaplano) involved a dynamic pulsed evolution with significant phases of both Middle-Late Jurassic and Late Cretaceous contractional deformation. Collapse long postdated all of this contraction. This complex geologic history set the stage for the Carlin-type gold deposit at Long Canyon, located along the eastern flank of the Pequop Mountains, and may provide important clues for future exploration. 
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  3. Abstract

    Strongly deformed footwall rocks exposed in metamorphic core complexes (MCC) of the North American Cordillera were exhumed via ductile attenuation, mylonitic shearing, and detachment faulting. Whether these structures accommodated diapiric upwelling or regional extension via low‐angle normal faulting is debated. The Ruby Mountains‐East Humboldt Range MCC, northeast Nevada, records top‐west normal‐sense exhumation of deformed Proterozoic‐Paleozoic stratigraphy and older basement. We conducted 1:24,000‐scale mapping of the southwestern East Humboldt Range, with integrated structural, geochemical, and geochronological analyses to characterize the geometry and kinematics of extension and exhumation of the mylonitized footwall. Bedrock stratigraphy is pervasively intruded by Cretaceous, Eocene, and Oligocene intrusions, but observations of a coherent stratigraphic section show >80% vertical attenuation of Neoproterozoic to Ordovician rocks. These rocks are penetratively sheared with top‐west kinematics. The shear zone thus experienced combined pure‐ and simple‐shear (i.e., general shear) strain. We argue that this shear zone was syn‐/post‐kinematic with respect to Oligocene plutonism because: (a) mylonitic shearing spatially corresponds with preceding Oligocene intrusions; (b) thermochronology reveals that the shear zone experienced substantial cooling and exhumation after Oligocene plutonism; and (c) the mylonites are crosscut by undated, but likely late Oligocene, leucogranite. We propose that Eocene mantle‐derived magmatism and thermal incubation led to Oligocene diapiric upwelling of the middle crust, with ductile stretching focused on the flanks of this upwarp. Regional Basin and Range extension initiated later in the middle Miocene. Therefore, the development of the East Humboldt Range shear zone was not driven by regional extension and coupled detachment faulting.

     
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  4. Abstract

    Mesozoic crustal shortening in the North American Cordillera’s hinterland was related to the construction of the Nevadaplano orogenic plateau. Petrologic and geochemical proxies in Cordilleran core complexes suggest substantial Late Cretaceous crustal thickening during plateau construction. In eastern Nevada, geobarometry from the Snake Range and Ruby Mountains-East Humboldt Range-Wood Hills-Pequop Mountains (REWP) core complexes suggests that the ~10–12 km thick Neoproterozoic-Triassic passive-margin sequence was buried to great depths (>30 km) during Mesozoic shortening and was later exhumed to the surface via high-magnitude Cenozoic extension. Deep regional burial is commonly reconciled with structural models involving cryptic thrust sheets, such as the hypothesized Windermere thrust in the REWP. We test the viability of deep thrust burial by examining the least-deformed part of the REWP in the Pequop Mountains. Observations include a compilation of new and published peak temperature estimates (n=60) spanning the Neoproterozoic-Triassic strata, documentation of critical field relationships that constrain deformation style and timing, and new 40Ar/39Ar ages. This evidence refutes models of deep regional thrust burial, including (1) recognition that most contractional structures in the Pequop Mountains formed in the Jurassic, not Cretaceous, and (2) peak temperature constraints and field relationships are inconsistent with deep burial. Jurassic deformation recorded here correlates with coeval structures spanning western Nevada to central Utah, which highlights that Middle-Late Jurassic shortening was significant in the Cordilleran hinterland. These observations challenge commonly held views for the Mesozoic-early Cenozoic evolution of the REWP and Cordilleran hinterland, including the timing of contractional strain, temporal evolution of plateau growth, and initial conditions for high-magnitude Cenozoic extension. The long-standing differences between peak-pressure estimates and field relationships in Nevadan core complexes may reflect tectonic overpressure.

     
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