Tessera Terrain, Venus: Characterization and models for origin and evolution


  • Duane L. Bindschadler,

  • James W. Head


Tessera terrain is the dominant tectonic landform in the northern high latitudes of Venus mapped by the Venera 15 and 16 orbiters and is concentrated in the region between the mountain ranges of western Ishtar Terra and Aphrodite Terra. Tesserae are characterized by regionally high topography, a high degree of small scale surface roughness, and sets of intersecting tectonic features. Available Pioneer Venus line of sight gravity data suggest that tessera terrain is compensated at shallow depths relative to many topographic highs on Venus and may be supported by crustal thickness variations. Three types of tessera terrain can be defined on the basis of structural patterns: subparallel ridged terrain (Tsr), trough and ridge terrain (Ttr) and disrupted terrain (Tds). Observed characteristics of tessera terrain are compared to predictions of models in order to begin to address the question of its origin and evolution. Formational models, in which high topography is created along with surface deformation, include (1) horizontal convergence, (2) mantle upwelling, (3) crustal underplating, and (4) a seafloor spreading analogy. Modificational models, in which deformation occurs as a response to the presence of elevated regions, consist of (1) gravity sliding and (2) gravitational relaxation. We find that horizontal convergence and late stage gravitational relaxation are the most consistent with basic observations for subparallel ridged terrain and disrupted terrain. Understanding of the basic structural characteristics of trough and ridge terrain is more tentative, and models involving a spreading process or convergence and relaxation merit further study.