Lateral coexistence of ductile and brittle deformation shapes magma-poor distal margins: An example from the West Iberia-Newfoundland margins

Liu, Zhonglan; Pérez-Gussinyé, Marta; Rüpke, Lars; Muldashev, Iskander A.; Minshull, Timothy A.; Bayrakci, Gaye. 2021 Lateral coexistence of ductile and brittle deformation shapes magma-poor distal margins: An example from the West Iberia-Newfoundland margins. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 578, 117288.

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A long-standing problem in solid Earth science is to understand how low-angle normal faults form, their role in the development of tectonic asymmetry of conjugate margins, and how they relate to mantle hydration during continental breakup. The latter requires water to reach the mantle through active brittle faults, but low angle slip on faults is mechanically difficult. Here, we incorporate observations from high-resolution multichannel seismic data along the West Iberia-Newfoundland margins into a 2D forward thermo-mechanical model to understand the relationship between evolving rift asymmetry, detachment tectonics, and mantle hydration. We show that, during extreme extension, slip on active faults bifurcates at depth into brittle and ductile deformation branches, as a result of the cooling of the faults' footwall and heating of their hangingwall. The brittle deformation penetrates the Moho and leads to mantle hydration, while ductile deformation occurs in localized shear zones and leads to the formation of detachment-like structures in the distal margin sections. Such structures, as for example ‘S’ in the West Iberia-Newfoundland margins, are thus composed of several shear zones, active at low-angles, ∼25°-20°, and merging with the Moho at depth. The final sub-horizontal geometry of these structures is the result of subsequent back-rotation of these shear zones by new oceanward faults. Our results reproduce remarkably well the final sedimentary, fault, crustal architecture, and serpentinisation pattern observed at the West Iberia-Newfoundland margins. However, they challenge widely accepted ideas that such detachment-like structures formed by brittle processes, separate crust from mantle and caused conjugate margin asymmetry. Our model provides a quantitative framework to study hydrothermal systems related to serpentinization during extreme extension, their associated hydrogen, methane production, and the chemosynthetic life they sustain.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: NOC Programmes > Ocean BioGeosciences
ISSN: 0012821X
Date made live: 09 Mar 2022 15:54 +0 (UTC)

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