Fault rotation and core complex formation : significant processes in seafloor formation at slow-spreading mid-ocean ridges (Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 13°–15°N)

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Smith, Deborah K.
Escartin, Javier E.
Schouten, Hans A.
Cann, Johnson R.
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Slow spreading ridges
Detachment faulting
Ocean core complex
Fault rotation
The region of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) between the Fifteen-Twenty and Marathon fracture zones displays the topographic characteristics of prevalent and vigorous tectonic extension. Normal faults show large amounts of rotation, dome-shaped corrugated detachment surfaces (core complexes) intersect the seafloor at the edge of the inner valley floor, and extinct core complexes cover the seafloor off-axis. We have identified 45 potential core complexes in this region whose locations are scattered everywhere along two segments (13° and 15°N segments). Steep outward-facing slopes suggest that the footwalls of many of the normal faults in these two segments have rotated by more than 30°. The rotation occurs very close to the ridge axis (as much as 20° within 5 km of the volcanic axis) and is complete by ∼1 My, producing distinctive linear ridges with roughly symmetrical slopes. This morphology is very different from linear abyssal hill faults formed at the 14°N magmatic segment, which display a smaller amount of rotation (typically <15°). We suggest that the severe rotation of faults is diagnostic of a region undergoing large amounts of tectonic extension on single faults. If faults are long-lived, a dome-shaped corrugated surface develops in front of the ridges and lower crustal and upper mantle rocks are exposed to form a core complex. A single ridge segment can have several active core complexes, some less than 25 km apart that are separated by swales. We present two models for multiple core complex formation: a continuous model in which a single detachment surface extends along axis to include all of the core complexes and swales, and a discontinuous model in which local detachment faults form the core complexes and magmatic spreading forms the intervening swales. Either model can explain the observed morphology.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2008. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems 9 (2008): Q03003, doi:10.1029/2007GC001699.
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Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems 9 (2008): Q03003
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