Preorogenic exhumation of the North Pyrenean Agly massif (Eastern Pyrenees-France)


Corresponding author: Alain Vauchez, Geosciences Montpellier, CNRS UMR-5243, Université de Montpellier II, Place E. Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier, France. (


[1] The Pyrenees, north of the North Pyrenean fault, display a complex structure involving a succession of peridotite massifs, basement massifs, and mid-Cretaceous to Late Cretaceous basins located in a narrow domain, which was affected by a mid-Cretaceous, preorogenic, high-temperature, low-pressure metamorphism. The Late Cretaceous basins were interpreted either as pull-apart basins formed during transcurrent motion of Iberia relative to Eurasia or as remnants of a larger extensional basin. Recent models support that peridotite massifs result from the exhumation of the mantle during this preorogenic event. The northern boundary of the Agly basement massif shows evidence of ductile deformation of the basal formations of the Agly sedimentary cover. Macroscopic and microscopic kinematics indicators consistent with asymmetry of crystallographic fabrics suggest normal sense of shear and thus suggest detachment, at least partial, of the Mesozoic cover from its basement. Triassic to Early Cretaceous limestones are mylonitic and consistently shows a foliation, a NS- to NE-trending lineation, shear criteria suggesting top-to-the-north shearing and locally boudinage. At the microscopic scale, mylonites are characterized by a very fine grain size, frequently <10 µm. They contain larger, partially recrystallized calcite parent grains and undeformed quartz grains with calcite fringes crystallized in pressure shadows. In these mylonites, calcite systematically shows a weak but well-defined crystallographic-preferred orientations, suggesting HT dislocation creep combined to diffusion creep and possibly grain boundary sliding in the finest fraction of the mylonites. Paleotemperatures determined using Raman spectrometry suggest synkinematic temperature conditions in the range 340–390°C, in good agreement with observed microstructures and calcite CPO. The mylonitic fabric in Mesozoic limestones is folded by EW-trending Pyrenean folds north of the Agly basement massif, attesting that this fabric formed before the Pyrenean orogeny. These data consistently support preorogenic extension under medium-temperature conditions of the northern Agly massif and likely of the massif itself. Since simultaneously (~100 Ma) a mid-Cretaceous basin opened south of the basement massif, we suggest a model of preorogenic exhumation of the Agly massif in response to the regional extension associated to the rotation of Iberia. This model may explain the exhumation of the North Pyrenean massifs during a single preorogenic event that allowed the opening of extensional basins and the exhumation of the lithospheric mantle. All these structures being subsequently reworked during the Pyrenean orogeny.