Extensional reactivation of the Penninic frontal thrust 3 Myr ago as evidenced by U–Pb dating on calcite in fault zone cataclasite

Bilau, Antonin; Rolland, Yann; Schwartz, Stéphane; Godeau, Nicolas; Guihou, Abel; Deschamps, Pierre; Brigaud, Benjamin; Noret, Aurélie; Dumont, Thierry; Gautheron, Cécile

In the Western Alps, the Penninic frontal thrust (PFT) is the main crustal-scale tectonic structure of the belt. This thrust transported the high-pressure metamorphosed internal units over the non-metamorphosed European margin during the Oligocene (34–29 Ma). Following the propagation of the compression toward the European foreland, the PFT was later reactivated as an extensional detachment associated with the development of the High Durance extensional fault system (HDFS). This inversion of tectonic displacement along a major tectonic structure has been widely emphasized as an example of extensional collapse of a thickened collisional orogen. However, the inception age of the extensional inversion remains unconstrained. Here, for the first time, we provide chronological constraints on the extensional motion of an exhumed zone of the PFT by applying U–Pb dating on secondary calcites from a fault zone cataclasite. The calcite cement and veins of the cataclasite formed after the main fault slip event, at 3.6 inline-formula± 0.4–3.4 inline-formula± 0.6 Ma. Cross-cutting calcite veins featuring the last fault activity are dated at 2.6 inline-formula± 0.3–2.3 inline-formula± 0.3 Ma. inline-formulaδ13C and inline-formulaδ18O fluid signatures derived from these secondary calcites suggest fluid percolation from deep-seated reservoir at the scale of the Western Alps. Our data provide evidence that the PFT extensional reactivation initiated at least inline-formula∼ 3.5 Myr ago with a reactivation phase at inline-formula∼ 2.5 Ma. This reactivation may result from the westward propagation of the compressional deformation toward the external Alps, combined with the exhumation of external crystalline massifs. In this context, the exhumation of the dated normal faults is linked to the eastward translation of the HDFS seismogenic zone, in agreement with the present-day seismic activity.

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Bilau, Antonin / Rolland, Yann / Schwartz, Stéphane / et al: Extensional reactivation of the Penninic frontal thrust 3 Myr ago as evidenced by U–Pb dating on calcite in fault zone cataclasite. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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