Strain Localization on an Oceanic Detachment Fault System, Atlantis Massif, 30°N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge
journal contributionposted on 06.11.2004, 00:00 by T. Shroeder, Barbara John
Microstructural observations, mineral chemistry, and the spatial distribution of deformation fabrics recorded in outcrop samples collected from Atlantis Massif, the active inside corner high at 30°N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, suggest that strain is localized near the subhorizontal domal surface hypothesized to be an exposed detachment fault. Deformation textures in peridotite and gabbro indicate that high-temperature (>500°C) strain occurred via crystal-plastic flow and diffusive mass transfer. Low-temperature (<400°C) shear zones containing brittle and semibrittle microboudinage textures in which tremolite, chlorite, and/or talc replace fractured serpentine or hornblende cut earlier formed high-temperature deformation fabrics in peridotite. Textures indicate strain was localized by cataclasis and reaction softening into zones of intense greenschist and subgreenschist grade metamorphism. Gabbro is only weakly deformed below amphibolite facies (<500°C), indicating that strain was partitioned into altered peridotite at low temperature. There is a clear relationship between deformation intensity and structural depth beneath the subhorizontal surface of the Massif. Discontinuous high-intensity crystal-plastic deformation fabrics are found at all structural depths (0-520 m) beneath the surface, indicating that high-temperature, granulite- and amphibolite-grade deformation was not localized in a single shear zone. In contrast, semibrittle and brittle low-temperature shear zones are concentrated less than 90 m structurally beneath the surface, and the most intensely brittlely deformed samples concentrated in the upper 10 m. Localization of brittle deformation fabrics near the upper surface of the massif supports the hypothesis that it is the exposed footwall of a detachment fault. The structural evolution of Atlantis Massif is therefore analogous to a continental metamorphic core complex. Strain was localized onto the fault by reaction-softening and fluid-assisted fracturing during greenschist- and subgreenschist-grade hydrothermal alteration of olivine, clinopyroxene, serpentine, and hornblende to tremolite, chlorite, and/or talc.