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A terrane in geology, in full a tectonostratigraphic terrane, is a fragment of crustal material formed on, or broken off from, one tectonic plate and accreted or "sutured" to crust lying on another plate. The crustal block or fragment preserves its own distinctive geologic history, which is different from that of the surrounding areas—hence the term "exotic" terrane. The suture zone between a terrane and the crust it attaches to is usually identifiable as a fault.

Geology The study of the composition, structure, physical properties, and history of Earths components, and the processes by which they are shaped.

Geology is an earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over time. Geology can also include the study of the solid features of any terrestrial planet or natural satellite such as Mars or the Moon. Modern geology significantly overlaps all other earth sciences, including hydrology and the atmospheric sciences, and so is treated as one major aspect of integrated earth system science and planetary science.

Crust (geology) The outermost solid shell of a rocky planet, dwarf planet, or natural satellite

In geology, the crust is the outermost solid shell of a rocky planet, dwarf planet, or natural satellite. It is usually distinguished from the underlying mantle by its chemical makeup; however, in the case of icy satellites, it may be distinguished based on its phase.

Accretion (geology) process by which material is added to a tectonic plate or a landmass

Accretion, in geology, is a process by which material is added to a tectonic plate or a landmass. This material may be sediment, volcanic arcs, seamounts, or other igneous features.


Older usage of terrane simply described a series of related rock formations or an area having a preponderance of a particular rock or rock groups.


A tectonostratigraphic terrane is not necessarily an independent microplate in origin, since it may not contain the full thickness of the lithosphere. It is a piece of crust which has been transported laterally, usually as part of a larger plate, and is relatively buoyant due to thickness or low density. When the plate of which it was a part subducted under another plate, the terrane failed to subduct, detached from its transporting plate, and accreted onto the overriding plate. Therefore, the terrane transferred from one plate to the other. Typically, accreting terranes are portions of continental crust which have rifted off another continental mass and been transported surrounded by oceanic crust, or old island arcs formed at some distant subduction zone.[ clarification needed ]

Lithosphere The rigid, outermost shell of a terrestrial-type planet or natural satellite that is defined by its rigid mechanical properties

A lithosphere is the rigid, outermost shell of a terrestrial-type planet, or natural satellite, that is defined by its rigid mechanical properties. On Earth, it is composed of the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater. The outermost shell of a rocky planet, the crust, is defined on the basis of its chemistry and mineralogy.

Continental crust Layer of rock that forms the continents and continental shelves

Continental crust is the layer of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks that forms the continents and the areas of shallow seabed close to their shores, known as continental shelves. This layer is sometimes called sial because its bulk composition is richer in silicates and aluminium minerals and has a lower density compared to the oceanic crust, called sima which is richer in magnesium silicate minerals and is denser. Changes in seismic wave velocities have shown that at a certain depth, there is a reasonably sharp contrast between the more felsic upper continental crust and the lower continental crust, which is more mafic in character.

Island arc Arc-shaped archipelago formed by intense seismic activity of long chains of active volcanoes

Island arcs are long chains of active volcanoes with intense seismic activity found along convergent tectonic plate boundaries. Most island arcs originate on oceanic crust and have resulted from the descent of the lithosphere into the mantle along the subduction zone. They are the principal way by which continental growth is achieved.

A tectonostratigraphic terrane is a fault-bounded package of rocks of at least regional extent characterized by a geologic history which differs from that of neighboring terranes. The basic characteristics of these terranes is that the present spatial relations are not compatible with the inferred geologic histories. Where terranes which lie next to each other possess strata of the same age, it must be demonstrable that the geologic evolutions are different and incompatible, and there must be an absence of intermediate lithofacies which could link the strata.

Facies body of rock with specified characteristics, smallest unit in geology

In geology, a facies is a body of rock with specified characteristics, which can be any observable attribute of rocks, and the changes that may occur in those attributes over a geographic area. It is the sum total characteristics of a rock including its chemical, physical, and biological features that distinguishes it from adjacent rock.

The concept of tectonostratigraphic terrane developed from studies in the 1970s of the complicated Pacific Cordilleran orogenic margin of North America, a complex and diverse geological potpourri that was difficult to explain until the new science of plate tectonics illuminated the ability of crustal fragments to "drift" thousands of miles from their origin and fetch up, crumpled, against an exotic shore. Such terranes were dubbed "accreted terranes" by geologists.

Orogeny The formation of mountain ranges

An orogeny is an event that leads to both structural deformation and compositional differentiation of the Earth's lithosphere at convergent plate margins. An orogen or orogenic belt develops when a continental plate crumples and is pushed upwards to form one or more mountain ranges; this involves a series of geological processes collectively called orogenesis.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Geologist Scientist who studies geology

A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitutes the Earth and other terrestrial planets, as well as the processes that shape them. Geologists usually study geology, although backgrounds in physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences are also useful. Field work is an important component of geology, although many subdisciplines incorporate laboratory work.

It was soon determined that these exotic crustal slices had in fact originated as "suspect terranes" in regions at some considerable remove, frequently thousands of kilometers, from the orogenic belt where they had eventually ended up. It followed that the present orogenic belt was itself an accretionary collage, composed of numerous terranes derived from around the circum-Pacific region and now sutured together along major faults. These concepts were soon applied to other, older orogenic belts, e.g. the Appalachian belt of North America.... Support for the new hypothesis came not only from structural and lithological studies, but also from studies of faunal biodiversity and palaeomagnetism. [1]

Geology of the Appalachians

The geology of the Appalachians dates back to more than 480 million years ago. A look at rocks exposed in today's Appalachian Mountains reveals elongate belts of folded and thrust faulted marine sedimentary rocks, volcanic rocks and slivers of ancient ocean floor – strong evidence that these rocks were deformed during plate collision. The birth of the Appalachian ranges marks the first of several mountain building plate collisions that culminated in the construction of the supercontinent Pangaea with the Appalachians and neighboring Little Atlas near the center. These mountain ranges likely once reached elevations similar to those of the Alps and the Rocky Mountains before they were eroded.

Biodiversity Variety and variability of life forms

Biodiversity is the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near the equator, which is the result of the warm climate and high primary productivity. Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on Earth, and is richest in the tropics. These tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 10 percent of earth's surface, and contain about 90 percent of the world's species. Marine biodiversity is usually highest along coasts in the Western Pacific, where sea surface temperature is highest, and in the mid-latitudinal band in all oceans. There are latitudinal gradients in species diversity. Biodiversity generally tends to cluster in hotspots, and has been increasing through time, but will be likely to slow in the future.

Paleomagnetism Study of Earths magnetic field in past

Paleomagnetism is the study of the record of the Earth's magnetic field in rocks, sediment, or archeological materials. Certain minerals in rocks lock-in a record of the direction and intensity of the magnetic field when they form. This record provides information on the past behavior of Earth's magnetic field and the past location of tectonic plates. The record of geomagnetic reversals preserved in volcanic and sedimentary rock sequences (magnetostratigraphy) provides a time-scale that is used as a geochronologic tool. Geophysicists who specialize in paleomagnetism are called paleomagnetists.

When terranes are composed of repeated accretionary events, and hence are composed of subunits with distinct history and structure, they may be called superterranes. [2]

Tectonostratigraphic terranes







North America

South America

Related Research Articles

Geology of Japan regional geology in the state of Japan

The islands of Japan are primarily the result of several large ocean movements occurring over hundreds of millions of years from the mid-Silurian to the Pleistocene as a result of the subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate beneath the continental Amurian Plate and Okinawa Plate to the south, and subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Okhotsk Plate to the north.

Arabian-Nubian Shield

The Arabian-Nubian Shield (ANS) is an exposure of Precambrian crystalline rocks on the flanks of the Red Sea. The crystalline rocks are mostly Neoproterozoic in age. Geographically - and from north to south - the ANS includes parts of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Somalia. The ANS in the north is exposed as part of the Sahara Desert and Arabian Desert, and in the south in the Ethiopian Highlands, Asir province of Arabia and Yemen Highlands.

The Nevadan orogeny occurred along the western margin of North America during the Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous time which is approximately from 155 Ma to 145 Ma. Throughout the duration of this orogeny there were at least two different kinds of orogenic processes occurring. During the early stages of orogenesis an "Andean type" continental magmatic arc developed due to subduction of the Farallon oceanic plate beneath the North American Plate. The latter stages of orogenesis, in contrast, saw multiple oceanic arc terranes accreted onto the western margin of North America in a "Cordilleran type" accretionary orogen. Deformation related to the accretion of these volcanic arc terranes is mostly limited to the western regions of the resulting mountain ranges and is absent from the eastern regions. In addition, the deformation experienced in these mountain ranges is mostly due to the Nevadan orogeny and not other external events such as the more recent Sevier and Laramide Orogenies. It is noted that the Klamath Mountains and the Sierra Nevada share similar stratigraphy indicating that they were both formed by the Nevadan orogeny. In comparison with other orogenic events, it appears that the Nevadan Orogeny occurred rather quickly taking only about 10 million years as compared to hundreds of millions of years for other orogenies around the World.

The Smartville Block, also called the Smartville Ophiolite, Smartville Complex, or Smartville Intrusive Complex, is a geologic terrane formed in the ocean from a volcanic island arc that was accreted onto the North American Plate during the late Jurassic. The collision created sufficient crustal heating to drive mineral-laden water up through numerous fissures along the contact zone. When these cooled, among the precipitating minerals was gold. Associated with the Western Metamorphic Belt of the Sierra Nevada foothills it extends from the central Sierra Nevada mountain range, due west, under a section of the Central Valley and California Coast Ranges, in northern California. The ophiolitic sequence found in this terrane is one of several major ophiolites found in California. Ophiolites are crustal rocks from the ocean floor that have been moved on land. Ophiolites have been studied extensively regarding the movement of crustal rocks by plate tectonics.

In structural geology, a suture is a joining together along a major fault zone, of separate terranes, tectonic units that have different plate tectonic, metamorphic and paleogeographic histories. The suture is often represented on the surface by an orogen or mountain range. The term was borrowed from surgery where it describes the sewing together of two pieces of tissue, but the sutures of the skull, where separate plates of bone have fused, may be a better metaphor.

The East European Craton (EEC) is the core of the Baltica proto-plate and consists of three crustal regions/segments: Fennoscandia to the northwest, Volgo-Uralia to the east, and Sarmatia to the south. Fennoscandia includes the Baltic Shield and has a diversified accretionary Archaean and early Proterozoic crust, while Sarmatia has an older Archaean crust. The Volgo-Uralia region has a thick sedimentary cover, however deep drillings have revealed mostly Archaean crust. There are two shields in the East European Craton: the Baltic/Fennoscandian shield and the Ukrainian shield. The Ukrainian Shield and the Voronezh Massif consists of 3.2-3.8 Ga Archaean crust in the southwest and east, and 2.3-2.1 Ga Early Proterozoic orogenic belts.

Accretionary wedge The sediments accreted onto the non-subducting tectonic plate at a convergent plate boundary

An accretionary wedge or accretionary prism forms from sediments accreted onto the non-subducting tectonic plate at a convergent plate boundary. Most of the material in the accretionary wedge consists of marine sediments scraped off from the downgoing slab of oceanic crust, but in some cases the wedge includes the erosional products of volcanic island arcs formed on the overriding plate.

The Wrangellia Terrane is a terrane extending from the south-central part of Alaska through southwestern Yukon and along the Coast of British Columbia in Canada. Some workers contend that Wrangellia extends southward to Oregon, although this is not generally accepted.

Wyoming Craton A craton in the west-central United States and western Canada

The Wyoming Craton is a craton in the west-central United States and western Canada – more specifically, in Montana, Wyoming, southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, and parts of northern Utah. Also called the Wyoming Province, it is the initial core of the continental crust of North America.

Carlin Unconformity

The Carlin Unconformity or Carlin Trend is a geologic feature in northeastern Nevada which represents a period of erosion or non-deposition likely associated with a collision between a tectonic crustal block called a terrane and the North American Plate. The collision occurred during the Mississippian Period, about 350 million years before present. The collision is associated with the Antler Orogeny.

The Carolina Terrane, also called the Carolina Superterrane or Carolinia, is an exotic terrane running ~370 miles (600 km) approximately North-South from central Georgia to central Virginia in the United States. It constitutes a major part of the eastern Piedmont Province.

This is a list of articles related to plate tectonics and tectonic plates.

Armorican terrane A microcontinent or group of continental fragments rifted away from Gondwana

The Armorican terrane, Armorican terrane assemblage, or simply Armorica, was a microcontinent or group of continental fragments that rifted away from Gondwana towards the end of the Silurian and collided with Laurussia towards the end of the Carboniferous during the Variscan orogeny. The name is taken from Armorica, the Gaulish name for a large part of northwestern France that includes Brittany, as this matches closely to the present location of the rock units that form the main part of this terrane.

Geology of North America regional geology of North America

The geology of North America is a subject of regional geology and covers the North American continent, third-largest in the world. Geologic units and processes are investigated on a large scale to reach a synthesized picture of the geological development of the continent.

High pressure metamorphic terranes along the Bangong-Nujiang Suture Zone

High pressure terranes along the ~1200 km long east-west trending Bangong-Nujiang suture zone (BNS) on the Tibetan Plateau have been extensively mapped and studied. Understanding the geodynamic processes in which these terranes are created is key to understanding the development and subsequent deformation of the BNS and Eurasian deformation as a whole.

Lhasa terrane A fragment of crustal material, sutured to the Eurasian Plate during the Cretaceous that forms present-day southern Tibet

The Lhasa terrane is a terrane, or fragment of crustal material, sutured to the Eurasian Plate during the Cretaceous that forms present-day southern Tibet. It takes its name from the city of Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China. The northern part may have originated in the East African Orogeny, while the southern part appears to have once been part of Australia. The two parts joined, were later attached to Asia, and then were impacted by the collision of the Indian Plate that formed the Himalayas.

Sveconorwegian orogeny

The Sveconorwegian orogeny was an orogenic system active 1140 to 960 million years ago and currently exposed as the Sveconorwegian orogenic belt in southwestern Sweden and southern Norway. In Norway the orogenic belt is exposed southeast of the front of the Caledonian nappe system and in nappe windows. The Sveconorwegian orogen is commonly grouped within the Grenvillian Mesoproterozoic orogens. Contrary to many other known orogenic belts the Sveconorwegian orogens eastern border does not have any known suture zone with ophiolites.

Svecofennian orogeny A series of related orogenies that resulted in the formation of much of the continental crust in what is today Sweden and Finland plus some minor parts of Russia

The Svecofennian orogeny is a series of related orogenies that resulted in the formation of much of the continental crust in what is today Sweden and Finland plus some minor parts of Russia. The orogenies lasted from about 2000 to 1800 million years ago during the Paleoproterozoic Era. The resulting orogen is known as the Svecofennian orogen or Svecofennides. To the west and southwest the Svecofennian orogen limits with the generally younger Transscandinavian Igneous Belt. It is assumed that the westernmost fringes of the Svecofennian orogen have been reworked by the Sveconorwegian orogeny just as the western parts of the Transscandinavian Igneous Belt has. The Svecofennian orogeny involved the accretion of numerous island arcs in such manner that the pre-existing craton grew with this new material from what is today northeast to the southwest. The accretion of the island arcs was also related to two other processes that occurred in the same period; the formation of magma that then cooled to form igneous rocks and the metamorphism of rocks.



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