The geology and tectonics of central Bhutan

<p>Lithotectonic mapping, metamorphic observations and U–Pb zircon ages underpin a substantial revision of central Bhutan geology, notably a more extensive and continuous outcrop of the Tethyan Sedimentary Series (TSS) than previously mapped. Metamorphic grade in the TSS increases downward towards a basal north-vergent tectonic contact with the underlying Greater Himalayan Series (GHS), interpreted as a southward continuation of the South Tibetan Detachment (STD). Miocene (<em>c</em>. 17–20 Ma) leucogranite sheets are associated with the STD in this region but appear to diminish southwards. Two leucogranite dykes that cross-cut TSS structures yield ages of 17.8 ± 0.2 and 17.9 ± 0.5 Ma. A 500 ± 4 Ma (U–Pb zircon) metamorphosed ash bed in the Pele La Group within the psammite-dominated lower TSS yields the first direct isotopic age for the TSS in the eastern Himalaya, confirming existing age constraints from detrital zircon and fossil studies. A continuation of the Paro metasedimentary unit underlying the GHS was mapped near Wangdue Phodrang. Our observations, notably the exposure of a wholly ductile STD so far south and the significance of large nappe-like structures in the TSS, prompt a major revision to the geological map of the Bhutan Himalaya and require a reassessment of tectonic interpretations of the Bhutan Himalaya. </p>