Detrital Zircon Geochronology Across the Chopawamsic Fault, Western Piedmont of North-Central Virginia: Implications for the Main Iapetan Suture in the Southern Appalachian Orogen Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2014 GAC/AGC®. The Chopawamsic fault potentially represents the main Iapetan suture, previously unidentified in the southern extent of the Appalachian orogen. The fault trends through the northcentral portion of the western Piedmont of Virginia and separates the composite metaclastic Potomac terrane, commonly interpreted to be of Laurentian affinity, from the Chopawamsic terrane, the remains of a Middle Ordovician volcanic arc of uncertain crustal affinity. To gain insight on the first-order orogenic significance of the Chopawamsic fault, we report the results of LA–ICP–MS U–Pb analyses of 1,289 detrital zircons from 13 metasedimentary rock samples collected from both sides of the fault.The near exclusivity of Middle Ordovician zircon grains (ca. 470 – 460 Ma) in four sampled metasedimentary rocks of the Chopawamsic Formation likely represents the detrital recycling of syndepositional Chopawamsic volcanic rocks. A subset of Cambrian and older grains hint at one or more additional, older sources.Samples from the Potomac terrane include mostly Mesoproterozoic zircon grains and these results are consistent with previous interpretations that the metaclastic rocks are Laurentian-derived. The youngest zircons (ca. 550 – 500 Ma) and the age of cross-cutting plutons indicate that at least some parts of the Potomac terrane are Late Cambrian – Early Ordovician. The results imply temporally discrete and geographically isolated sedimentary systems during deposition of sedimentary rocks in the Chopawamsic and Potomac terranes.Metasedimentary rocks near Storck, Virginia, previously identified as a successor basin, contain detrital zircon populations that indicate they are actually peri-Gondwanan derived metasedimentary rocks unrelated to a successor basin system; their geographic position between the Laurentianderived Potomac terrane and the Chopawamsic terrane suggests a peri-Gondwanan affinity for the Chopawamsic arc and geographic separation of the Chopawamsic and Potomac terranes in the Middle Ordovician. Consequently, we tentatively support the hypothesis that the Chopawamsic fault system represents the main Iapetan suture in the southern Appalachian orogen.Most detrital zircons from samples of the Arvonia successor basin crystallized in the Ordovician – Silurian or Mesoproterozoic. These data suggest that the Arvonia basin was deposited in the latest Ordovician to Early Silurian only after the Late Ordovician accretion of the Chopawamsic arc to Laurentia.

author list (cited authors)

  • Hughes, K. S., Hibbard, J. P., Pollock, J. C., Lewis, D. J., & Miller, B. V.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • December 2014