Boninites are high Mg andesites that are thought to form in suprasubduction zone tectonic environments as primary melts from refractory mantle. Boninites provide a potential constraint on tectonic models for ancient terranes that contain boninites because the only unequivocal tectonic setting in which "modern" boninites have been recognized is a fore-arc setting. Tectonic models for "modern" boninite genesis include subduction initiation ("infant arc"), fore-arc spreading, and the forearc side of intra-arc rifting (spreading). These models can be differentiated by the relative age of the boninites and to a lesser degree, geochemistry. The distinctive geochemistry of boninites promotes their recognition in ancient terranes. As detailed in this report, several mafic terranes in the northeastern Appalachians contain boninites; these terranes were situated on both sides of Iapetus. The characteristics of these boninites can be used to constrain tectonic models of the evolution of the northeastern Appalachians. On the Laurentian side of Iapetus, "infant arc" boninites were not produced ubiquitously during the Cambrian subduction initiation, unless sampling problems or minimum age dates obscure a more widespread boninite "infant arc". The Cambrian subduction initiation on the Laurentian side was probably characterized by both "infant arc" boninitic arc construction (perhaps the >496 Ma Hawley Formation and the >488 Ma Betts Cove Ophiolite) and "normal" arc construction (Mt. Orford). This duality is consistent with the suggestion that the pre-collisional geometry of the Laurentian margin was complex. The Bay of Islands Complex and Thetford Mines ophiolite boninites are likely associated with forearc/intra-arc spreading during the protracted evolution of the Cambrian arc system. The relatively young boninites in the Bronson Hill Arc suggest that the Taconic continuous eastward subduction tectonic model is less tenable than other models. On the Gondwana side of Iapetus, the Tea Arm boninites of the Exploits Group stratigraphically rest on arc and MORB volcanics. This stratigraphy, and the relatively young age of the boninites (486 Ma), compared to assumed subduction initiation age (>513 Ma), suggest that the boninites may be more consistent with fore-arc spreading/intra-arc spreading. However, an "infant arc" model cannot be dismissed, and is commonly proposed for the nearby boninites in the Wild Bight Group. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Boninites: Characteristics and tectonic constraints, northeastern Appalachians