Late Cretaceous-Palaeogene stratigraphic and basin evolution in the Zhepure Mountain of southern Tibet: implications for the timing of India-Asia initial collision


Correspondence: Dr Xiumian Hu, State Key Laboratory of Mineral Deposits Research, School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China. E-mail:


This article presents combined stratigraphic, sedimentological, subsidence and provenance data for the Cretaceous–Palaeogene succession from the Zhepure Mountain of southern Tibet. This region records the northernmost sedimentation of the Tethyan passive margin of India, and this time interval represents the transition into continental collision with Asia. The uppermost Cretaceous Zhepure Shanpo and Jidula formations record the transition from pelagic into upper slope to delta-plain environments. The Palaeocene–lower Eocene Zongpu Formation records a carbonate ramp that is overlain by the deep-water Enba Formation (lower Eocene). The upper part of the Enba Formation records shallowing into a storm-influenced, outer shelf environment. Detrital zircon U–Pb and Hf isotopic data indicate that the terrigenous strata of the Enba Formation were sourced from the Lhasa terrane. Unconformably overlying the Enba Formation is the Zhaguo Formation comprising fluvial deposits with evidence of recycling from the underlying successions. Backstripped subsidence analysis indicates shallowing during latest Cretaceous-earliest Palaeocene time (Zhepure Shanpo and Jidula formations) driven by basement uplift, followed by stability (Zongpu Formation) until early Eocene time (Enba Formation) when accelerated subsidence occurred. The provenance, subsidence and stratigraphy suggest that the Enba and Zhaguo formations record foredeep and wedge-top sedimentation respectively within the early Himalayan foreland basin. The underlying Zongpu Formation is interpreted to record the accumulation of a carbonate ramp at the margin of a submarine forebulge. The precursor tectonic uplift during latest Cretaceous time could either record surface uplift over a mantle plume related to the Réunion hotspot, or an early signal of lithospheric flexure related to oceanic subduction, continental collision or ophiolite obduction. The results indicate that the collision of India with Asia occurred before late Danian (ca. 62 Ma) time.