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The boundary between the eastern and western domains of the Pyrenean Orogen: a Cenozoic triple junction zone in Iberia?

Author(s): S. Tavani

Journal: Solid Earth Discussions
ISSN 1869-9537

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 507;
Date: 2012;
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The Cantabrian Transitional Area (CTA) is located in the eastern portion of the Cantabrian Mountain Range of the northern Spain. It represents the most important internal boundary within the Upper Cretaceous to Cenozoic E–W elongated Pyrenean Orogen. In the south-verging portion of this orogen, the CTA divides the western thick-skinned Cantabrian Domain, which accommodated for a limited portion of the total N–S oriented orogenic shortening, from the Pyrenean realm to the east, where the south-verging frontal structures are characterised by a marked thiN–Skin style of deformation, and significantly contributed to accommodate the total shortening. In the Cantabrian Transitional Area, Cenozoic syn-orogenic left-lateral, right-lateral and reverse dip-slip movements have occurred along different directions, postdating early-orogenic extensional structures. The latter indicate that the southern portion of the study area formed the eastern termination of the northward concave roughly E–W oriented proto Duero Foreland Basin. This basin was flanked to the north by the thick-skinned proto Cantabrian Belt, which included in its easternmost part the northern portion of the Cantabrian Transitional Area. Onset of right-lateral strike-slip tectonics along the WNW-ESE striking Ubiernal-Venatniella Fault System, which locates to the SW of the CTA and crosses the entire Cantabrian Belt and its formerly southern foreland basin, caused the dislocation of the belt-foredeep system. Contextually, thiN–Skinned structures belonging to the eastern domain of the Pyrenean Orogen laterally propagated and incorporated the eastern part of the proto Duero Foreland Basin. Coexistence of right-lateral and reverse movements to the west and to the east, respectively, determined the onset of an intrabelt compression at the boundary between the Cantabrian and Pyrenean domains, which was the ultimate act of the fusion of the two domains into a single orogen. Paradoxically, this fusion has basically occurred due to the penetration of the NW-SE-striking intraplate right-lateral transpressive system of the Iberian Chain into the Cantabrian Domain of the Pyrenean Orogen. Cenozoic right-lateral reactivation of the Ubierna Fault System, in fact, is part of a NW-SE striking intraplate strike-slip transpressive system, which to the south-east includes the Iberian Chain until the Mediterranean Sea and that, in the western termination of the Ubierna Fault System, branches off into three main splay faults, which are the Ventaniella and Leon faults, and the Duero frontal thrust. Taking into account the role of this Cenozoic transpressive system allows to drastically reduce the gap between plate kinematic reconstructions and geological evidences. This implies that, despite the limited amount of displacement, the Iberian Chain and the Ubierna-Ventaniella systems must be elevated to the rank of microplate boundary, which divided two sectors of the Iberian Plate. Accordingly, the intersection between this system and the Pyrenean Orogen, which occurs in the CTA, must be regarded as a triple junction zone.
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