The southwestern margin of Laurentia transitioned from a left-lateral transform margin to a convergent margin by middle Permian time, which initiated the development of a subduction zone and subsequent Cordilleran arc along western Laurentia. The displaced Caborca block was translated several hundred kilometers from southern California, USA, to modern Sonora, Mexico, beginning in Pennsylvanian time (ca. 305 Ma). The Monos Formation, a ~600-m-thick assemblage of mixed bioclastic and volcaniclastic units exposed in northwestern Sonora, provides lithostratigraphic, petrographic, and geochronologic evidence for magmatic arc development associated with subduction by middle Permian time (ca. 275 Ma). The Monos Formation was deposited in a forearc basin adjacent to a magmatic arc forming along the southwestern Laurentian margin. Detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology suggests that Permian volcanic centers were the primary source for the Monos Formation. These grains mixed with far-traveled zircons from both Laurentia and Gondwana. Zircon age spectra in the Monos Formation are dominated by a ca. 274 Ma population that makes up 65% of all analyzed grains. The remaining 35% of grains range from 3.3 Ga to 0.3 Ma, similar to age spectra from Permian strata deposited in the Paleozoic sequences in the western continental interior. An abundance of Paleozoic through early Neoproterozoic ages suggests that marginal Gondwanan sources from Mexico and Central America also supplied material to the basin. The Monos Formation was deposited within tropical to subtropical latitudes, yet faunal assemblages are biosiliceous and heterotrophic. The lack of photozoan assemblages suggests that cold-water coastal upwelling combined with sedimentation from the Cordilleran arc and Laurentian continent promoted conditions more suitable for fauna resilient to biogeochemically stressed environments. We propose that transform faulting and displacement of the Caborca block ceased by middle Permian time and a subduction zone developed along the southwestern margin of Laurentia as early as early Permian time. The Monos basin developed along the leading edge of the continent as a magmatic arc developed, and facies indicate a consistent shoaling trend over the span of deposition.
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