Arc–Continent Collision in the Ordovician of Western Ireland: Stratigraphic, Structural and Metamorphic Evolution

  • P. D. Ryan
  • J. F. Dewey
Part of the Frontiers in Earth Sciences book series (FRONTIERS)


The geology of western Ireland preserves a record of the collision of the Lough Nafooey arc with the Laurentian margin which caused the mid-Ordovician Grampian Orogeny. Remarkably, a basin, the South Mayo Trough, accumulated some 9 km of sedimentary and volcanic rocks before, during and after this event. Thrusting, believed to be during the post-Grampian change in subduction polarity, exhumed high to medium grade Barrovian metamorphic rocks of the footwall which lie to both the north (North Mayo) and south (Connemara) of this basin. This article reviews: the evidence for this being considered an arc–continent collision zone; the relative timing of events in the upper and lower plates; the structure of the crust within this zone; and the associated gold mineralisation. The stratigraphic and volcanic response of the system to the collision is then discussed in the light of a compilation of some 533 geochemical analyses. An attempt is made to assign absolute ages to the fossiliferous stratigraphic units within the South Mayo Trough using a recently published high-resolution Ordovician time scale. This analysis suggests that the initial “soft” collision took place over about 7 Myr, “hard” collision lasted for a further 6 myr, whilst polarity reversal may have taken <1 myr. Uplift and collapse of the orogen lasted over 9 myr. The possible causes of the suppression of topography which allowed the basin to remain below sea-level during this collision are primarily thought to be due to the nature of the Laurentian margin coupled with high sea levels and dense basin fill. The metamorphism of the footwall to high grade Barrovian assemblages is attributed to heating from an ophiolite-arc nappe.


Detrital Zircon Accretionary Prism Active Continental Margin Late Ordovician Volcanic Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Maria A. Mange for help with drafting Fig. 13.6. and Amy E. Draut and Peter D. Clift for supplying original geochemical data files used in preparing Figs. 13.10 and 13.11.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth and Ocean SciencesNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland
  2. 2.Department of GeologyUC DavisDavisUSA

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