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ABSTRACT

We describe the internal structure of a multi-kilometre scale mud volcano edifice from the South Caspian Sea using three-dimensional (3D) seismic reflection data leading to a reconstruction of the volcano system's eruptive history. By adapting elements of classic seismic stratigraphy to the study of this volcano, we have found its edifice to consist of a series of stacked mud cones. This internal architecture is most likely to have formed as a result of repeated episodes of expulsion of a fluid-mud mix. Underlying the stack of cones is an asymmetric fault-bounded caldera measuring approximately 2 km in diameter. This caldera shows close structural similarity to the trapdoor type of magmatic caldera. Based on the geometrical relationships of individual mud cones to this caldera, we conclude that caldera-like collapse of the edifice floor initiated following the deposition of the first mud cone (the pioneer cone). Growth of the caldera continued until the later stages of edifice evolution when it eventually abated. This eruptive history shows strong similarities to recent models for magmatic caldera eruption cycles. The study therefore highlights the potential analogue value of mud volcano systems to the study of igneous volcanism. Furthermore, it identifies 3D seismic data as a potentially useful tool in reconstructing the history of mud volcanic eruption and fluid and sediment expulsion from sedimentary basins.