Adakitic intrusive rocks of ∼ 430-450 Ma were discovered in the North Qilian orogenic belt, the western section of the Central Orogenic System (COS) in China. These adakitic rocks were lower crust melts rather than slab melts as indicated by their crustal Ce/Pb, Nb/U, Ti/Eu, and Nd/Sm ratios and radiogenically enriched (87Sr/86Sr)i of 0.7053-0.7066 and εNd(t) of - 0.9 to - 1.7. While they are all characterized by low Yb (< 1.1 ppm) and Y (< 11.5 ppm) abundances with high Sr/Y (> 65) and (La/Yb)N (> 13.7) ratios, these adakitic rocks are classified into the low-MgO-Ni-Cr and high-MgO-Ni-Cr groups. The low-MgO samples were derived from partial melting of thickened lower crust, whereas the high-MgO samples were melts from delaminated lower crust, which subsequently interacted with mantle peridotite upon ascent. Adakitic rocks from the adjacent North Qinling orogenic belt also originated from thickened lower crust at ∼ 430 Ma. In addition, the North Qilian and North Qinling orogenic belts both consist of lithological assemblages varying from subduction-accretionary complexes at south to central arc assemblages, which include adakitic rocks, then to backarc phases at north. Such a sequence reflects northward subduction of the Qilian and Qinling oceans. In these two orogenic belts, the occurrence of adakitic rocks of common origin and ages together with the similarities in tectonic configurations and lithological assemblages are considered to be the evidence for the continuity between eastern Qilian and western Qinling, forming a > 1000 km Early Paleozoic orogenic belt. In such a tectonic configuration, the Qilian and Qinling oceans that subducted from south possibly represent parts of the large "Proto-Tethyan Ocean". This inference is supported by the coexistence of Early Paleozoic coral and trilobite specimens from Asia, America and Australia in the North Qilian orogenic belt. Post-400 Ma volcanic rocks occur in the North Qinling orogenic belt but are absent in the North Qilian orogenic belt, indicating that these two orogenic belts underwent distinct evolution history after the closure of the Proto-Tethyan Ocean (∼ 420 Ma).
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