We use three-dimensional (3D) seismic reflection data to analyse the architecture of the footwall of a listric fault, in a gravitationally driven extensional system, in the north-western Niger Delta. In contrast to conventional listric normal fault models with a single master listric fault plane the level of detachment switches from a deeper to shallower level. The footwall evolves through the generation of new master detachment faults and detachments, which transfers hanging wall rocks into the footwall. New detachments form by branching off pre-existing detachment levels, cutting-up through stratigraphy to the next mechanical weakness, separating discrete sections of extended strata. As a consequence a deeper, older array of seaward-dipping, tilted extensional fault blocks is now located in the footwall beneath the master listric detachment fault. The structural complexity located below the master detachment fault highlights extensional episodes on separate detachment faults that are not captured in conventional listric models. We speculate that changes in the level of the detachment are caused by mechanical weaknesses controlled by lithology, pore pressure and episodes of sediment loading related to deltaic progradation.
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