A synchronous Alpine and Corsica-Sardinia rotation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Fabio Speranza
  • Claudio Faccenna
  • Antonio Cascella
  • Gianluca Vignaroli
  • Leonardo Sagnotti

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia
  • Università degli studi Roma Tre


We report on the paleomagnetism of 34 sites from lower Oligocene-middle Miocene sediments exposed in the Tertiary Piedmont Basin (TPB, northern Italy). The TPB is formed by a thick (∼4000 m) and virtually undeformed sedimentary succession unconformably lying upon Alpine nappes decapitated by extensional exhumation, which in turn are tectonically stacked over the Adriatic foreland. Paleomagnetic directions from 23 (mostly Oligocene) sites were chronologically framed using new biostratigraphic evidence from calcareous nannoplankton. Our data, along with published paleomagnetic results, show that the TPB rotated ∼50° counterclockwise withrespect to Africa in Aquitanian-Serravallian times. The rotation was likely driven by underneath nappe stacking and was synchronous with (further) bending of the Alpine chain. Both the rotation magnitude and its timing are similar to those documented for the Corsica-Sardinia microplate. Therefore the formation of the western Alpine arc (or at least part of its present-day curvature) occurred during the rollback of the Apenninic slab and related back-arc spreading of the Liguro-Provençal Basin and drift of the Corsica-Sardinia block. This suggests a common dynamics driving both the Alpine and the Apennine slab motions. Paleomagnetic data also document that the Adriatic plate has undergone no paleomagnetic rotation since mid-late Miocene times. Anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility data suggests that the TPB, an enigmatic basin arising from a controversial tectonic setting, formed in an extensional regime characterized by a stretching direction approximately orthogonal to the main trend of the underlying chain.


Original languageEnglish
Article numberB03104
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2008