Fault zone development and strain partitioning in an extensional strike-slip duplex: A case study from the Mesozoic Atacama fault system, Northern Chile
- ISSN: 00401951
- DOI: 10.1016/j.tecto.2005.02.012
Upper crustal strike-slip duplexes provide an excellent opportunity to address the fundamental question of fault zone development and strain partitioning in an evolving system. Detailed field mapping of the Mesozoic Atacama fault system in the Coastal Cordillera of Northern Chile documents the progressive development of second- and third-order faults forming a duplex at a dilational jog between two overstepping master faults: the sinistral strike-slip, NNW-striking, Jorgillo and Bolfin faults. These are constituted by a meter-wide core of foliated S-C ultracataclasite and cataclasite, flanked by a damage zone of protocataclasite, splay faults and veins. Lateral separation of markers along master faults is on the order of a few kilometers. Second-order, NW-striking, oblique-slip subsidiary fault zones do not show foliated ultracataclasite; lateral sinistral separations are in the range of 10 to 200 m with a relatively minor normal dip-slip component. In turn, third-order, eastwest striking normal faults exhibit centimetric displacement. Oblique-slip (sinistralnormal) fault zones located at the southern termination of the Bolfin fault form a well-developed imbricate fan structure. They exhibit a relatively simple architecture of extensional and extensional-shear fractures bound by low displacement shear fractures. Kinematic analysis of fault slip data from mesoscopic faults within the duplex area, document that the NW-striking and the EW-striking faults accommodate transtension and extension, respectively. Examination of master and subsidiary faults of the duplex indicates a strong correlation between total displacement and internal fault structure. Faults started from arrays of en echelon extensional/extensional-shear fractures that then coalesced into throughgoing strike-slip faults. Further displacement leads to the formation of discrete bands of cataclasite and ultracataclasite that take up a significant part of the total displacement. We interpret that the duplex formed by progressive linkage of horsetail-like structures at the southern tip of the Bolfin fault that joined splay faults coming from the Jorgillo and Coloso faults. The geometry and kinematics of faults is compared with that observed in analog models to gain an insight into the kinematic processes leading to complex strike-slip fault zones in the upper crust.