Late Neogene kinematics of intra-arc oblique shear zones: The Petilia-Rizzuto Fault Zone (Calabrian Arc, Central Mediterranean)


  • J. P. Van Dijk


The kinematics of intra-arc shear zones play a key role in the secondary shaping of orogenic arcs such as the Calabrian Arc (central Mediterranean). Comparison of the Neogene structural development of the Petilia-Rizzuto Fault Zone and the basement structure of the bordering Sila massif reveals that the fault zone is the surface expression of a deep NW–SE trending sinistral crustal oblique shear zone. This shear zone continues over a length of more than 130 km across the northern segment of the Calabrian Arc and shows a post-Eocene sinistral displacement of about 50 km. The late Neogene forearc basin development and syndepositional tectonics along the fault zone are reconstructed in great detail by analyzing the middle Miocene-Recent tectonic sequence stratigraphy. A strike-slip cycle can be recognized whereby the subsequent activity of Riedel shears, tensional faults, and P shears, positive flower structures and principle displacement wrench faults, can accurately be traced in time. Observed phenomena are discussed in terms of the activity of a conjugate system of oblique thrust zones within the growing accretionary complex. The evolution of special types of thrust belt basins is illustrated. These include oblique thin-skinned pull-apart basins, oblique rhomboidal “harmonica” basins, and “detached slab” basins (new terms introduced here), evolving one into the other. A new feature illustrated is the recurrent basin inversion which generated passive roof duplexes through back-shear motion and out-of-sequence thrusting along the wedge. The fault patterns and the style of inversion tectonics imply an E–W directed axis of effective compressive stress in this part of the arc. This resulted from an interaction of (1) local E–W directed compression related to a differential displacement of two parallel segments of the arc (generated by the migration to the southeast of the Calabrian Arc and opening of the Tyrrhenian backarc basin); (2) alternating NW–SE directed compression and extension (related to pulsating thrust wedge dynamics with phases of accretion and underthrusting respectively) and (3) regional, compressive interplate stress (middle Messinian-middle Pliocene). All structures are overprinted by post middle Pleistocene extensional faulting (related to rapid uplift of intra-arc massifs) and reversal along thrust planes and transcurrent faults. This extensional collapse reflects isostatic adjustments in response to plate rupture which was provoked by regional compressive stress.