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Metamorphic core complexes within the western U.S. record a history of Cenozoic ductile and brittle extensional deformation, metamorphism, magmatism, and exhumation within the footwalls of high-angle Basin and Range normal faults. In models proposed for the formation of metamorphic core complexes there is a close temporal and spatial link between upper crustal normal faulting, lower crustal ductile extension and flow, and detachment faulting. To provide constraints on the timing of ductile extension in the northern Snake Range metamorphic core complex (Nevada) and thereby test these models, we present new 238U-206Pb dates on zircons from both deformed and undeformed rhyolite dikes intruded into this core complex. The older age bracket is from the northern dike swarm, which was emplaced in the northwestern part of the range pretectonic to syntectonic with ductile extension. The younger age bracket is from the Silver Creek dike swarm, which was emplaced in the southern part of the range after ductile extensional deformation. The 238U-206Pb zircon ages from these dikes provide tight bounds on the timing of ductile extension, between 37.806 ± 0.051 Ma and 22.49 ± 0.36 Ma. Our field observations, petrography, and 238U-206Pb zircon ages on these dikes combined with published data on the geology and kinematics of extension, moderate- and low-temperature thermochronology on lower plate rocks, and age and faulting histories of Cenozoic sedimentary basins, are interpreted as recording an episode of localized upper crustal brittle extension during the late Eocene that drove upward ductile extensional flow of hot middle crustal rocks from beneath the northern Snake Range detachment soon after, or simultaneously with, emplacement of the older dike swarm. Exhumation of the lower plate continued in a rolling hinge–isostatic rebound style; the western part of the lower plate was exhumed first and the eastern part extended ductilely either episodically or continuously until the latest Oligocene–earliest Miocene, when the post-tectonic younger dike swarm was emplaced. Major brittle slip along the eastern part of the northern Snake Range detachment and along high-angle normal faults exhumed the lower plate during middle Miocene.


This article was originally published Open Access in Geosphere. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.



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