The formation of passive margins: Constraints from the crustal structure and segmentation of the deep Galicia margin, Spain

G. Boillot*, M. O. Beslier, C. M. Krawczyk, D. Rappin, Timothy Reston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The crustal structure of the Mesozoic deep Galicia margin and adjacent ocean-continent boundary (OCB) was investigated by seismic reflection (including pre-stack depth migration and attenuation of seismic waves with time). The seismic data were calibrated using numerous geological samples recovered by drilling and/or by diving with submersible. The N-S trending margin and OCB are divided in two distinct segments by NE-SW synrift transverse faults locally reactivated and inverted by Cenozoic tectonics. The transverse faulting and OCB segmentation result from crustal stretching probably in a NE-SW direction during the rifting stage of the margin in early Cretaceous times. The Cenozoic tectonics are related to Iberia-Eurasia convergence in Palaeogene times (Pyrenean event). In both segments of the deep margin, the seismic crust is made of four horizontal layers: (1) two sedimentary layers corresponding to post- and syn-rift sequences, where velocity ranges from 1.9 to 3.5 km s -1, and where the Q factor is low, the two sedimentary layers being separated by a strong reflector marking the break-up unconformity; (2) a faulted layer, where velocity ranges from 4.0 to 5.2 km s -1, and where the Q factor is high. This layer corresponds to the margin tilted blocks, where continental basement and lithified pre-rift sediments were sampled; (3) the lower seismic crust, where the velocity (7 km s -1 and more) and the Q factor are the highest. This layer, probably made of partly serpentinized peridotite, is roofed by a strong S-S' seismic reflector, and resting on a scattering, poorly reflective Moho. A composite model, based both on analogue modelling of lithosphere stretching and on available structural data, accounts for the present structure of the margin and OCB. Stretching and thinning of the lithosphere are accommodated by boudinage of the brittle levels (upper crust and uppermost mantle) and by simple shear in the ductile levels (lower crust and upper lithospheric mantle). Two main conjugate shear zones may account for the observations and seismic data: one (SZ1), located in the lower ductile continental crust, is synthetic to the tilting sense of the margin crustal blocks; another (SZ2), located in the ductile mantle, accounts for the deformation of mantle terranes and their final unroofing and exposure at the continental rift axis (now the OCB). The S-S' reflector is interpreted as the seismic signature of the tectonic contact between crustal terranes and mantle rocks partly transformed into serpentinite by syn-rift hydrothermal activity. It is probably related to both shear zones SZ1 and SZ2. The seismic Moho is lower within the lithosphere, at the fresh-serpentinized peridotite boundary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-91
Number of pages21
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Geology


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