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Silurian and late Ordovician K-bentonites as a record of late Caledonian volcanism in the British Isles

  • N. J. Fortey (a1), R. J. Merriman (a1) and W. D. Huff (a2)


Silurian and late Ordovician K-bentonites of the British Isles provide a record of prolonged volcanism during the convergence of terranes associated with closure of the Iapetus and Tornquist Oceans. In the Southern Uplands–Longford-Down and Midland Valley terranes, they range from late Caradoc to Telychian, withfurther early Homerian occurrences. South of the Iapetus suture, in Eastern Avalonia, the range is Hirnantianto early Ludlow in northern England and early Telychian to earliest Ludfordian in the Welsh Borderland and English Midlands. In both cases, the distributions indicate that volcanism was more long-lived and probably more extensive than is depicted in current plate tectonic reconstructions. Average intervals between K-bentonites are estimated, based on Harland et al. (1990), as: c. 65000 years at Dob's Linn (late Aeronian to early Telychian); c. 39000 years in the Cautley area (Telychian); c. 51000 years in a borehole at Walsall (late Llandovery to Sheinwoodian). Trace element geochemistry suggests mostly subalkaline dacitic to rhyolitic magmas in which LILE-enrichment accompanies variable enrichment in crustally derived elements (Ta, Nb). The geochemistry suggests comparison with continental arc volcanism of ‘withinplate, attenuated lithosphere’ character. Ta–Nb enrichment and an absence of Eu anomalies from REE profiles are consistently present northof the Iapetus suture, but trace element patterns are less consistent south of the suture where negative Eu anomalies are generally present. Discriminant function analysis successfully distinguishes Llandovery, Wenlockand Ludlow K-bentonites from south of the Iapetus suture, and Llandovery K-bentonites from north and south ofthe suture. Those from north of the Iapetus suture probably originated in volcanism along the southern marginof Laurentia before final closure of the Iapetus Ocean. Those from south of the suture may have been derived from volcanism associated with late destruction of Iapetus and Tornquist oceanic crust, although an alternative involving volcanism at the southern margin of Eastern Avalonia or Baltica may accord better with the distribution of K-bentonites and the geographical trend of the fragmentary outcrops of Silurian volcanic rocks from southern Ireland to Belgium.



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Silurian and late Ordovician K-bentonites as a record of late Caledonian volcanism in the British Isles

  • N. J. Fortey (a1), R. J. Merriman (a1) and W. D. Huff (a2)


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