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Four Mesozoic major transgressive/regressive cycles have been recognized within Western European basins. They are named as: (1) Eastern Tethys Cycle, (2) Ligurian Cycle, (3) North Sea Cycle, and (4) North Atlantic Cycle, following the four main phases of rifting that affected the whole Western European Craton and its borders during Mesozoic times. Such cycles are bounded by major unconformities, whose names from oldest to youngest are: Hardegsen or Solling (Scythian), Early Cimmerian (Late Norian), Mid-Cimmerian (Aalenian), Late Cimmerian (Berriasian) and Laramide (Palaeocene). Major transgressive/regressive cycles record outpaces the area of every individual basin, which suggests that local tectonic features were not the principal causes.

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