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The margins of Avalonia

  • L. R. M. COCKS (a1), W. S. MCKERROW (a2) and C. R. VAN STAAL (a3)
    • Published online: 01 September 1997

During Cambrian and earliest Ordovician times, Avalonia was an area forming an integral part of the huge Gondwanan continent, probably along the northern margin of Amazonia, until in early Ordovician (late Arenig or Llanvirn) time it split off from Gondwana, leaving a widening Rheic Ocean to its south. Today, its southern margin with Gondwana extends northeast from east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, through Nova Scotia north of the Meguma terrane, and thence below sea level to the south of Newfoundland. On the eastern side of the present Atlantic, the southern margin may separate southwest Portugal from the rest of the Iberian Peninsula; it can be traced eastwards with more certainty from the south Cornwall nappes to a line separating the Northern Phyllite Belt (on the southern margin of the Rhenohercynian terrane) and the Mid-German Crystalline High. There is no certain evidence of Avalonian crust to the northeast of the Elbe Line. The northern margin of Avalonia extends westwards from south of Denmark to the British Isles, where it merges with the Iapetus Ocean suture between Scotland and England. Traced westwards, it crosses Ireland and reappears in northern Newfoundland to the east of New World Island, where it may follow the trace of the Dog Bay Line and the Cape Ray Fault. Recent work suggests that the northern margin of Avalonia may clip the northern tip of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, and then enter the North American mainland at the Bay of Chaleur; it may then be traced from north and west of the Popelogan and Bronson Hill arcs to Long Island Sound near Newhaven, Connecticut. The Cambrian to Devonian faunas reflect the history of Avalonia: initially they were purely Gondwanan but, as Ordovician time proceeded, more genera crossed firstly the Tornquist Ocean as it narrowed between Avalonia and Baltica to close in latest Ordovician and early Silurian times, and secondly the Iapetus Ocean, so that by the early Silurian most of the benthic shelly faunas, apart from the ostracods, were the same round the adjacent margins of all three palaeocontinents.

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Geological Magazine
  • ISSN: 0016-7568
  • EISSN: 1469-5081
  • URL: /core/journals/geological-magazine
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