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The study of the evolution of ocean basins from birth to death is crucial for the understanding of the geodynamic evolution of orogenic systems. Exhumed ophiolite-bearing orogenic belts represent significant fossil analogues of different types of modern oceanic basins, allowing detailed multiscale and multidisciplinary investigations. Such investigations are highly important to our understanding of the ancient and modern geodynamic processes connected to the different stages of complete tectonic evolution, from rifting to subduction, collision and exhumation.
The eclogite-facies Monviso meta-ophiolite Complex in the Western Alps represents a well-preserved fragment of oceanic lithosphere and related Upper Jurassic – Lower Cretaceous sedimentary covers. This meta-ophiolite sequence records the evolution of an oceanic core complex formed by mantle exhumation along an intra-oceanic detachment fault (the Baracun Shear Zone), related to the opening of the Ligurian–Piedmont oceanic basin (Alpine Tethys). On the basis of detailed geological mapping, and structural, stratigraphic and petrological observations, we propose a new interpretation for the tectonostratigraphic architecture of the Monviso meta-ophiolite Complex, and discuss the role played by structural inheritance in its formation. We document that subduction- and exhumation-related Alpine tectonics were strongly influenced by the inherited Jurassic intra-oceanic tectonosedimentary physiography. The latter, although strongly deformed during a major Alpine stage of non-cylindrical W-verging folding and faulting along exhumation-related Alpine shear zones (i.e. the Granero–Casteldelfino and Villanova–Armoine shear zones), was not completely dismembered into different tectonic units or subduction-related mélanges as suggested in previous interpretations. The present-day architecture of the Monviso meta-ophiolite Complex results from nappe-scale folding with a significant component of shearing, and strain partitioning of the Alpine deformation, which were controlled by the inherited occurrence of (i) lateral and vertical variations of facies and thickness of sediments, (ii) an intra-oceanic fault-rock assemblage, which acted as weak horizons in concentrating deformation, and (iii) remnants of a volcanic ridge, which consists of massive metabasalt. Thus, the recognition of pre-collisional, intra-oceanic, tectonostratigraphic inheritance represents an important step in reconstructing the tectonic evolution of meta-ophiolite units in orogenic belts.
We develop a two-dimensional thermo-mechanical numerical model in which the formation of oceanic crust and serpentinite due to the hydration of the uprising mantle peridotite has been implemented, with the aim of discussing the behaviour of the lithosphere of the Alps and Northern Apennines during the transition from continental rifting to ocean spreading of the Alpine Tethys. The predictions of the model are compared with natural data related to the Permian–Triassic high-temperature – low-pressure (HT-LP) metamorphism affecting the continental lithosphere and data from the Jurassic P–T evolution of the oceanic lithosphere from the Alps and the Northern Apennines. Our analysis indicates that a thinned continental crust, an ocean–continent transition zone and an oceanic lithosphere characterize the final structure of the system in a poor magma rift pre-Alpine configuration. We also find that mantle serpentinization starts before crustal break-up and that denudation occurs before ocean spreading. The mantle denudation starts several million years before the gabbros/basalt formation, generating an ocean–continent transition zone from the passive continental margin to the oceanic lithosphere of size 160–280 km. The comparative analysis shows that the extension of a hot and weak lithosphere, which promotes the development of hyperextended Alpine margins, better agrees with the natural data. Finally, our comparative analysis supports the hypothesis that the lithospheric extension preceding the opening of the Alpine Tethys did not start in a stable continental lithosphere, but developed by recycling part of the old Variscan collisional suture.
Lawsonite eclogites are rare rocks and have been described from only a few localities in the world. Lawsonite-bearing assemblages are highly unstable and physico-chemical processes linked to exhumation may destroy them; only aggregates interpreted as pseudomorphs after lawsonite could be often recognized. In this paper, we present a detailed structural and petrological study of an area in the northwestern sector of the metaophiolitic high-pressure Voltri Massif (Ligurian Western Alps, Italy). The study area is characterized by a lawsonite-bearing eclogitic metagabbro associated with carbonated serpentinites and glaucophanic metasediments. The metagabbro body reached eclogitic metamorphic peak conditions at T = 465–477°C and P = 20.9–24.4 kbar, with H2O continuously supplied to the system. H2O under-saturated conditions, with the occurrence of both lawsonite and epidote, characterized the exhumation path. Both the low temperature recorded by the body and the occurrence of variously carbonated serpentinites led us to interpret this area as a portion of the top of the subducted slab, coupled with a ‘cool’ mantle wedge, where both aqueous fluids and carbonate-rich fluids were present. The occurrence of rocks belonging to different paleogeographic domains (e.g. continent versus ocean) and the multiple deformations recorded by the metagabbro suggest that this area was nearby the slab–mantle interface. This sector was thus affected by a shear regime that acted in a low-viscosity serpentinite channel, bringing these high-pressure rocks back to the surface.
The Zermatt-Saas Zone was part of the Middle to Late Jurassic Tethyan lithosphere that underwent oceanic metamorphism during Mesozoic time and subduction during Eocene time (HP to UHP metamorphism). In upper Valtournanche, serpentinite, metarodingite and eclogite record a dominant S2 foliation that developed under 2.5±0.3 GPa and 600±20°C during Alpine subduction. Serpentinites contain clinopyroxene and rare zircon porphyroclasts. Clinopyroxene porphyroclasts show fringes within S2 with similar compositions to that of grains defining S2. Zircon cores show zoning typical of magmatic growth and thin fringes parallel to the S2 foliation. These features indicate crystallization of clinopyroxene and zircon fringes during HP syn-D2 metamorphism, related to the Alpine subduction. The U–Pb zircon dates for cores and fringes reveal crystallization at 165±3.2 Ma and 65.5±5.6 Ma, respectively. The Middle Jurassic dates are in agreement with the known ages for the oceanic accretion of the Tethyan lithosphere. The Late Cretaceaous - Paleocene dates suggest that the Zermatt-Saas Zone experienced high-pressure to ultra-high-pressure (HP–UHP) metamorphism at c. 16 Ma earlier than previously reported. This result is in agreement with the evidence that in the Western Alps the continental Sesia-Lanzo Zone reached the subduction climax at least from 70 Ma and was exhumed during ongoing oceanic subduction. Our results are further evidence that the Zermatt-Saas ophiolites diachronically recorded heterogeneous HP–UHP metamorphism.
The Anarak Metamorphic Complex, localized in Central Iran, is a fossil accretionary wedge composed of several tectonometamorphic units. Some of these, the Chah Gorbeh, the Morghab and the Ophiolitic complexes, contain mafic rocks that have been metamorphosed at high-pressure–low-temperature conditions. Such units have been stacked together and later refolded during the final stages of exhumation. Structural analysis at the mesoscale recognized at least three deformation events. Microstructural analyses, mineral chemistry and thermodynamic modelling reveal that the mafic schists followed contrasting P–T paths during their tectonometamorphic evolutions. In the schists of the Chah Gorbeh and Ophiolitic complexes an early greenschist-facies stage was later overprinted by blueschist-facies phase assemblages with suggested peak conditions of 390–440°C at 0.6–0.9 GPa for the meta-basalt within the Ophiolitic Complex and 320–380°C at 0.6–0.9 GPa for the blueschists of the Chah Gorbeh Complex. P–T conditions at metamorphic peak were 410–450°C at 0.78–0.9 GPa for the Morghab blueschists, but they are reached before a greenschist-facies re-equilibration. Compositional zoning of amphiboles and epidotes of this greenschist-facies stage suggests a renewed pressure increase at the end of this metamorphic stage. Based on these data we reconstructed a clockwise P–T path for the Morghab mafic schists and a counter-clockwise path for the Chah Gorbeh blueschists and ophiolitic meta-basalts. Such contrasting metamorphic evolutions of tectonic units that were later accreted to the same wedge are indicative of the complex tectonic dynamics that occur within accretionary–subduction complexes.
A blueschist-facies mylonite crops out between two high-pressure tectono-metamorphic oceanic units of the Ligurian Western Alps (NW Italy). This mylonitic metabasite is made up of alternating layers with different grain size and proportions of blueschist-facies minerals.
The mylonitic foliation formed at metamorphic conditions of T = 220–310 °C and P = 6.5–10 kbar. The mylonite shows various superposed structures: (i) intrafoliar and similar folds; (ii) chocolate-tablet foliation boudinage; (iii) veins; (iv) breccia.
The occurrence of comparable mineral assemblages along the foliation, in boudin necks, in veins and in breccia cement suggests that the transition from ductile deformation (folds) to brittle deformation (veining and breccia), passing through a brittle–ductile regime (foliation boudinage), occurred gradually, without a substantial change in mineral assemblage and therefore in the overall P–T metamorphic conditions (blueschist-facies).
A strong fluid–rock interaction was associated with all the deformative events affecting the rock: the mylonite shows an enrichment in incompatible elements (i.e. As and Sb), suggesting an input of fluids, released by adjacent high-pressure metasedimentary rocks, during ductile deformation. The following fracturing was probably enhanced by brittle instabilities arising from strain and pore-fluid pressure partitioning between adjacent domains, without further external fluid input.
Fluids were therefore fixed inside the rock during mylonitization and later released into a dense fracture mesh that allowed them to migrate through the mylonitic horizon close to the plate interface.
We finally propose that the fracture mesh might represent the field evidence of past episodic tremors or ‘slow earthquakes’ triggered by high pore-fluid pressure.
In northern Turkey, the Intra-Pontide suture zone represents one of the first-order tectonic structures located between the Istanbul–Zonguldak and the Sakarya continental terranes. It consists of an E–W-trending assemblage of deformed and variably metamorphosed tectonic units, including sedimentary rocks and ophiolites derived from a Neo-Tethyan oceanic basin, known as the Intra-Pontide oceanic basin. One of these units is represented by the Daday Unit that consists of a block-in-matrix assemblage derived from supra-subduction oceanic crust and related deep-sea sedimentary cover of Middle Jurassic age. This setting was acquired during Late Jurassic time by tectonic underplating at a depth of 35–42 km associated with blueschist-facies metamorphism (D1 phase). The following D2, D3 and D4 phases produced the exhumation of the Daday Unit up to shallower structural levels in a time span running from the Albian to late Paleocene. The high geothermal gradient detected during the D2 phase indicates that the Daday Unit was exhumed during a continent–arc collisional setting. The tectonic structures of the Intra-Pontide suture zone, resulting from the previously described tectonic history, are unconformably sealed by the upper Paleocene – Eocene deposits. This tectonic setting was intensely reworked by the activity of the North Anatolian Fault Zone, producing the present-day geometrical relationships of the Intra-Pontide suture zone of the Central Pontides.
The aim of this paper is to contribute to deciphering the evolutionary history of the Hellenides by the study of a large sector of the chain located between the front of the ophiolitic units and the external zones classically attributed to the continental margin of Adria. In particular, the tectonic units located in Boeotia – a key area located in Central Greece at the boundary between the Internal and External Hellenides – were studied from structural, stratigraphic and biostratigraphic points of view. Addressing the main debated aspects concerning the origin of the ophiolite nappe(s), the tectonic evolution of the Hellenic orogen was revised with a particular emphasis on the period between obduction and continental collision. New findings were compared with consolidated data concerning the main metamorphic events recorded in the more Internal Hellenides, geochemistry and age of the ophiolites and main stratigraphic constraints obtained in other sectors of the belt. Finally, a new reconstruction of the tectonic evolution of this area was introduced and, in the context of the dispute concerning the origin of the ‘ophiolitic belts’ as a possible record of multiple oceanic basins, we put forward for consideration a ‘single ocean’ tectonic model spanning from Triassic up to Tertiary times, and valid for the whole Hellenic–Albanian sector.
The Peloritani Mountains, in the southern part of the Calabrian Terranes, southern Italy, have been classically interpreted as the product of the Paleogene brittle deformation of the European continental back-stop of the Neotethyan subduction complex. This reconstruction conflicts with the occurrence of an Alpine metamorphic overprint that affected portions of both the Variscan metamorphic units and part of the Mesozoic sedimentary covers of the mountain belt. New field data, integrated with petrographic, micro- and meso-structural analyses and stratigraphic investigation of the syn-tectonic terrigenous covers, well constrain a Paleogene collision event along the Africa–Nubia convergent margin that caused the exhumation of the Alpine metamorphic units of the Peloritani Mountains. The syn-collisional exhumation was associated with shearing along two major Africa-verging crustal thrusts arising from the positive tectonic inversion of the former European palaeomargin. Early tectonic motions occurred within the mountain belts and produced the exhumation of the external portions of the edifice. Later tectonic motions occurred along the sole-thrust of the entire edifice and caused the definitive exhumation of the entire mountain belt. The whole crustal thrusting lasted for a period of c. 10 Ma, during the entire Oligocene. The definitive southwestward emplacement of the Peloritani Mountain Belt onto the Neotethyan accretionary wedge was followed by two Late Oligocene – Early Miocene NW–SE-oriented right lateral shear zones, replacing the previous crustal thrust. These two strike-slip belts are interpreted as the surface expression of the deep-seated suture zone between the colliding Africa and Europe continental crusts.
The Sestola Vidiciatico tectonic Unit (SVU) accommodated the early Miocene convergence between the subducting Adriatic plate and the overriding Ligurian prism, and has been interpreted as a field analogue for the shallow portion of subduction megathrusts. The SVU incorporated sediments shortly after their deposition and was active down to burial depth corresponding to temperatures around 150 °C. Here, we describe the internal architecture of the basal thrust fault of the SVU through a multi-scale structural analysis and investigate the evolution of the deformation mechanisms with increasing burial depth. At shallow depth, the thrust developed in poorly lithified sediments which deformed by particulate flow. With increasing depth and lithification of sediments, deformation was accommodated in a meter scale, heterogeneous fault zone, including multiple strands of crack-and-seal shear veins, associated with minor distributed shearing in clay-rich domains and pressure solution. In the last stage, slip localized along a sharp, 20 cm thick shear vein, deactivating the fault zone towards the footwall. The widespread formation of crack-and-seal shear veins since the first stages of lithification indicates that failure along the thrust occurred at high fluid pressure and low differential stress already at shallow depth. Progressive shear localization occurs in the last phases of deformation, at temperatures typical of the transition to the seismogenic zone in active megathrusts.
This study is focused on slide blocks including oceanic lavas associated with pelagic sediments within the eastern part of the Ankara Mélange. A detailed petrological characterization of the volcanic rocks and a detailed biochronological investigation of the associated radiolarian cherts in eight sections (east of Ankara) was carried out. The volcanic rocks are largely represented by basalts and minor ferrobasalts and trachytes. They show different geochemical affinities and overlapping ages including: (a) Late Jurassic – Early Cretaceous garnet-influenced MORB (middle late Oxfordian to late Kimmeridgian–early Tithonian and early–early late Tithonian; late Valanginian–early Barremian); (b) Early Cretaceous enriched-MORB (middle late Barremian–early early Aptian; Valanginian to middle Aptian–early Albian); (c) Middle Jurassic plume-type MORB (early–middle Bajocian to late Bathonian–early Callovian); (d) Late Jurassic – Early Cretaceous alkaline basalts (middle–late Oxfordian to late Kimmeridgian–early Tithonian; late Valanginian to late Hauterivian). All rock types show a clear garnet signature, as testified to by their high MREE/HREE (middle rare earth element/heavy rare earth element) ratios. The coexistence of chemically different rock types from Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous times suggests that they were formed in a mid-ocean ridge setting from partial melting of a highly heterogeneous mantle characterized by the extensive occurrence of OIB-metasomatized portions, which were likely inherited from Triassic mantle plume activity associated with the continental rift and opening of the Neotethys branch.
The Central-Southern Apennines are the result of the collision between Europe and Africa. Despite the volume of existing literature, many problems remain unsolved such as the presence of Tertiary conglomerates containing exotic basement clasts. The lack of basement rocks in the Central-Southern Apennines implies that the origin of these clasts has to be sought in areas where the basement is extensively exposed. These include the Calabro–Peloritani arc and the Sardinia–Corsica block, which in Cenozoic time were connected to the Central-Southern Apennines. In this work we present the results of sedimentary, geochemical and petrographic analyses performed on the exotic basement-derived clasts. These analyses include lithological, major- and minor-element and rare Earth element compositions which are compared to analogous rocks from Calabria and Sardinia basements. Results indicate Eastern Sardinia as the primary source area for the studied conglomeratic units, linking the Central-Southern Apennines sedimentary cover to the Mesozoic carbonates of Eastern Sardinia prior to the opening of Tyrrhenian Sea. The Cilento unit (Campania) was directly fed by an uplifting Cenozoic orogen, and the Filettino, Gavignano (Latium) and Ariano Irpino (Campania) units were produced by the successive reworking of ‘Cilento-like’ sedimentary units. These results may imply that part of the Central-Southern Apennines represented a portion of the European margin of the Tethys.
The study was performed in central-northern Anatolia (from Ankara to Amasya) to investigate the relationships of the Sakarya Zone units and the Izmir–Ankara–Erzincan suture (IAES) melange. It reveals that all the Sakarya Zone units are metamorphic and three main tectonostratigraphic units have been distinguished for the first time: the BAA (metasiliciclastic rocks capped by metacarbonates and varicoloured phyllite), the BKC (poly-metamorphic garnet-bearing micaschist and metabasite with a well-preserved relict HP–LT amphibole in a low-amphibolitic to greenschist-facies framework) and the AMC (meta-arkose passing vertically to carbonate–phyllitic alternations and, then, to a thick succession of prevailing acidic to intermediate–basic metavolcanites and volcanic-rich metasediments). The BAA and AMC, whose metamorphic frameworks are of Cimmerian age, underlie the Mesozoic carbonate cover sequences (e.g. t2-3, j3–k1) that often show tectonic detachments and slicing. The piling up of the BAA above the HP–LT BKC can be correlated to the tectonic superposition of two similar units (i.e. the Cimmerian Çangaldağ Complex and the Alpine Middle–Upper Cretaceous Domuzdağ Complex, respectively) defined by previous authors in other sectors of the Central Pontides front. The ophiolitic melange generally underlies the Sakarya Zone, but locally (e.g. SE of Amasya) tectonically rests above the latter, probably owing to back-thrusting that occurred during the Tertiary syn-collisional shortenings and the later strike-slip tectonics. We hypothesize that, also in these areas, the Sakarya Zone–IAES consists of a complex tectonic stack of different units, belonging to different palaeogeographic domains and orogenic events (Cimmerian versus Alpine orogenies), but originated within a single long-lived (since Late Triassic to Paleocene/Eocene times), prograding subduction–accretion system in front of the Laurasian continent.
We here propose a new kinematic picture of central Sicily based on the results of detailed field mapping of the region, combined with structural analyses and the interpretation of the available literature subsurface data. Our study focused on the tectonic boundary of a structural depression, the Caltanissetta Trough, which is now filled with allochthonous terrains resting on the deep-seated inverted African palaeomargin units. Our data refer to the tectonosedimentary evolution of the thrust-top basins, from Late Tortonian to Quaternary times. The study points out the occurrence of regional E–W-oriented dextral shear zones, cutting the NE-oriented trends of the thrust belt. This new evidence would confirm the major role of the E–W trend in the tectonic inversion of the external portions of the Africa palaeomargin in Sicily. Our results could contribute to a better understanding of the location in Sicily of the tectonic lineaments accommodating the hundreds of kilometres of lateral displacement, caused by the Late Miocene–Quaternary Tyrrhenian Basin opening to the north of the island.