Abstract View

Volume 30 Issue 12 (December 2020)

GSA Today

Article, pp. 4-10 | Full Text | PDF

The Mesoproterozoic Single-Lid Tectonic Episode: Prelude to Modern Plate Tectonics

Robert J. Stern

Geosciences Dept., The University of Texas at Dallas, Box 830688, Richardson, Texas 75083-0688, USA


The hypothesis that the Mesoproterozoic (1600–1000 Ma) tectonic regime was a protracted single-lid episode is explored. Single-lid tectonic regimes contrast with plate tectonics because the silicate planet or moon is encased in a single lithospheric shell, not a global plate mosaic. Single-lid tectonics dominate among the Solar System’s active silicate bodies, and these show a wide range of magmatic and tectonic styles, including heat pipe (Io), vigorous (Venus), and sluggish (Mars). Both positive and negative evidence is used to evaluate the viability of the Mesoproterozoic single-lid hypothesis. Four lines of positive evidence are: (1) elevated thermal regime; (2, 3) abundance of unusual dry magmas such as A-type granites and anorthosites; and (4) paucity of new passive continental margins. Negative evidence is the lack of rock and mineral assemblages formed by plate-tectonic processes such as ophiolites, blueschists, and ultra high-pressure terranes. Younger plate-tectonic–related and Mesoproterozoic mineralization styles contrast greatly. Paleomagnetic evidence is equivocal but is permissive that Mesoproterozoic apparent polar wander paths of continental blocks did not differ significantly. These tests compel the conclusion that the Mesoproterozoic single-lid hypothesis is viable.

Manuscript received 12 Aug. 2020. Revised manuscript received 10 Sept. 2020. Manuscript accepted 15 Sept. 2020. Posted 29 Sept. 2020.

© The Geological Society of America, 2020. CC-BY-NC.