Fission-track evidence of tectonic evolution in the northwestern Qaidam Basin, China

  • Guo-Qiang Sun
  • Wei-Ming Liu
  • Jia-Jia Guo
  • Ye-Tong Wang


Fission-track dating was conducted on zircons and apatites from 11 cores of the upper Xiaganchaigou Formation and lower Shangganchaigou Formation (northwestern Qaidam Basin). The obtained apatite fission-track age is 3.1–61.9 Ma, and the zircon fission-track age is 49.2–123.5 Ma. Although the average apatite age is consistent with ages predicted from the stratigraphy, nine of the 11 apatite fission-track ages have \(\hbox {P}(\upchi ^{2}) < 5\%\), indicating that the grains experienced heterogeneous annealing after sedimentation. The average zircon age is greater than that indicated by stratigraphy, and all eight zircon fission ages have \(\hbox {P}(\upchi ^{2})>5\%\), exhibiting consistent characteristics and indicating that zircons retain provenance age information after burial. From the zircon and apatite ages, the fission-track length distribution, and the geological setting, the northwestern Qaidam Basin has experienced two tectonothermal events since the Late Mesozoic, at \(39.1 \pm 9.3\) to \(133.7\,\pm \,6.6\,\hbox {Ma}\) and \(1.2 \pm 0.6\) to \(32.0\,\pm \,3.0\,\hbox {Ma}\). The earlier (39.1–133.7 Ma) tectonothermal event resulted from the initial collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates. As a consequence of the collision, the Altyn Tagh fault, which forms the northwestern boundary of the Qaidam Basin, began to develop. Subsequently, uplift of the Altyn Tagh mountains began and the northwestern depression of the Qaidam Basin started to form. The later (1.2–32.0 Ma) tectonothermal event resulted from further collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates along the Yarlung Tsangpo suture zone. Strata in the Qaidam Basin were further deformed by transpression in this period and this period played a crucial role in petroleum accumulation.


Apatite fission-track zircon fission-track tectonic evolution Qaidam Basin 



This study was supported by the ‘Western Light’ Talents Training Program of CAS, Nature Science Foundation of Gansu Province (Grant No. 1308RJZA310) and the Key Laboratory Project of Gansu Province (Grant No. 1309RTSA041).


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© Indian Academy of Sciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guo-Qiang Sun
    • 1
  • Wei-Ming Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jia-Jia Guo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ye-Tong Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Petroleum Resources, Gansu Province/Key Laboratory of Petroleum Resources Research, Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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