Detachment shear zone of the Atlantis Massif core complex, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 30 °n

J. A. Karson, G. L. Früh-Green, D. S. Kelley, E. A. Williams, D. R. Yoerger, M. Jakuba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


Near-bottom investigations of the cross section of the Atlantis Massif exposed in a major tectonic escarpment provide an unprecedented view of the internal structure of the footwall domain of this oceanic core complex. Integrated direct observations, sampling, photogeology, and imaging define a mylonitic, low-angle detachment shear zone (DSZ) along the crest of the massif. The shear zone may project beneath the nearby, corrugated upper surface of the massif. The DSZ and related structures are inferred to be responsible for the unroofing of upper mantle peridotites and lower crustal gabbroic rocks by extreme, localized tectonic extension during seafloor spreading over the past 2 m.y. The DSZ is characterized by strongly foliated to mylonitic serpentinites and talc-amphibole schists. It is about 100 m thick and can be traced continuously for at least 3 km in the tectonic transport direction. The DSZ foliation arches over the top of the massif in a convex-upward trajectory mimicking the morphology of the top of the massif. Kinematic indicators show consistent top-to-east (toward the MAR axis) tectonic transport directions. Foliated DSZ rocks grade structurally downward into more massive basement rocks that lack a pervasive outcrop-scale foliation. The DSZ and underlying basement rocks are cut by discrete, anastomosing, normal-slip, shear zones. Widely spaced, steeply dipping, normal faults cut all the older structures and localize serpentinization-driven hydrothermal outflow at the Lost City Hydrothermal Field. A thin (few meters) sequence of sedimentary breccias grading upward into pelagic limestones directly overlies the DSZ and may record a history of progressive rotation of the shear zone from a moderately dipping attitude into its present, gently dipping orientation during lateral spreading and uplift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberQ06016
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Detachment faults
  • Faults
  • Oceanic core complex
  • Seafloor spreading
  • Serpentinite
  • Shear zones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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