The Alhama de Murcia and Crevillente faults in the Betic Cordillera of southeast Spain form part of a network of prominent faults, bounding several of the late Tertiary and Quaternary intermontane basins. Current tectonic interpretations of these basins vary from late-orogenic extensional structures to a pull-apart origin associated with strike-slip movements along these prominent faults. A strike-slip origin of the basins, however, seems at variance both with recent structural studies of the underlying Betic basement and with the overall basin and fault geometry. We studied the structure and kinematics of the Alhama de Murcia and Crevillente faults as well as the internal structure of the late Miocene basin sediments, to elucidate possible relationships between the prominent faults and the adjacent basins. The structural data lead to the inevitable conclusion that the late Miocene basins developed as genuinely extensional basins, presumably associated with the thinning and exhumation of the underlying basement at that time. During the late Miocene, neither the Crevillente fault nor the Alhama de Murcia fault acted as strike-slip faults controlling basin development. Instead, parts of the Alhama de Murcia fault initiated as extensional normal faults, and reactivated as contraction faults during the latest Miocene-early Pliocene in response to continued African-European plate convergence. Both prominent faults presently act as reverse faults with a movement sense towards the southeast, which is clearly at variance with the commonly inferred dextral or sinistral strike-slip motions on these faults. We argue that the prominent faults form part of a larger scale zone of post-Messinian shortening made up of SSE- and NNW-directed reverse faults and NE to ENE-trending folds including thrust-related fault-bend folds and fault-propagation folds, transected and displaced by, respectively, WNW- and NNE-trending, dextral and sinistral strike-slip (tear or transfer) faults. Â© 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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