Ophiolite-bearing mélanges in southern Italy



In southern Italy two ophiolite-bearing belts, respectively involved in the Adria-verging southern Apennines and in the Europe-verging thrust belt of the northern Calabrian Arc, represent the southward extension of the northern Apennines and of ‘Alpine Corsica’ ophiolitic units, respectively. They form two distinct suture zones, which are characterized by different age of emplacement and opposite sense of tectonic transport. The ophiolite-bearing units of the southern Apennines are represented by broken formation and tectonic mélange associated with remnants of a well-developed accretionary wedge emplaced on top of the Adria continental margin, with an overall NE direction of tectonic transport. These units consist of a Cretaceous-Oligocene matrix, which includes blocks of continental-type rocks and ophiolites with remnants of their original Upper Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous pelagic cover. The innermost portion of the accretionary wedge is represented by a polymetamorphosed and polydeformed tectonic units that underwent a Late Oligocene high pressure/low temperature (HP/LT) metamorphism. The northern Calabria ophiolitic-belt is indeed composed of west-verging tectonic slices of oceanic rocks which, embedded between platform carbonate units of a western continental margin at the bottom and the basement crystalline nappes of the Calabrian Arc at the top, are affected by a Late Eocene-Early Oligocene HP/LT metamorphism. The main tectonic features of these two suture zones suggest that they can be interpreted as the result of the closure of two branches of the western Neotethys separated by a continental block that includes the crystalline basement rocks of the Calabrian Arc. We thus suggest that the north-east verging southern Apennine suture constituted by a well-developed accretionary wedge is the result of the closure of a large Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous oceanic domain (the Ligurian Ocean) located between the African (the Adria Block) and European continental margins. The northern Calabria suture derives indeed from the deformation of a very narrow oceanic-floored basin developed during the Mesozoic rifting stages within the European margin separating a small continental ribbon (Calabrian Block) from the main continent. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.