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The palaeogeography of Sundaland and Wallacea since the Late Jurassic

Robert Hall

Abstract

The continental core of Southeast (SE) Asia, Sundaland, was assembled from Gondwana fragments by the Early Mesozoic. Continental blocks rifted from Australia in the Jurassic [South West (SW) Borneo, East Java-West Sulawesi-Sumba], and the Woyla intraoceanic arc of Sumatra, were added to Sundaland in the Cretaceous. These fragments probably included emergent areas and could have carried a terrestrial flora and fauna. Sarawak, the offshore Luconia-Dangerous Grounds areas, and Palawan include Asian continental material. These probably represent a wide accretionary zone at the Asia-Pacific boundary, which was an active continental margin until the mid Cretaceous. Subduction ceased around Sundaland in the Late Cretaceous, and from about 80 Ma most of Sundaland was emergent, physically connected to Asia, but separated by deep oceans from India and Australia. India moved rapidly north during the Late Cretaceous and Early Cenozoic but there is no evidence that it made contact with SE Asia prior to collision with Asia. One or more arc-India collisions during the Eocene may have preceded India-Asia collision. The arcs could have provided dispersal pathways from India into SE Asia before final suturing of the two continents. During the Late Cretaceous and Early Cenozoic there was no significant subduction beneath Sumatra, Java and Borneo. At about 45 Ma Australia began to move north, subduction resumed and there was widespread rifting within Sundaland. During the Paleogene east and north Borneo were largely submerged, the Makassar Straits became a wide marine barrier within Sundaland, and West Sulawesi was separated from Sundaland but included land. By the Early Miocene the proto-South China Sea had been eliminated by subduction leading to emergence of land in central Borneo, Sabah and Palawan. Australia-SE Asia collision began, eliminating the former deep ocean separating the two continents, and forming the region now known as Wallacea. The microplate or terrane concept of slicing fragments from New Guinea followed by multiple collisions in Wallacea is implausible. Neogene subduction drove extension and fragmentation of Wallacea that caused both subsidence of deep marine basins and elevation of land; bathymetry changed very rapidly, especially during the Pliocene, but the detailed palaeogeography of this region remains uncertain.

Keywords

SE Asia, geology, subduction, land, sea

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Submitted: 2013-02-04 10:38:18
Published: 2013-08-26 10:23:05
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