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Geologic studies of present ocean basins and continental rift systems suggest a four-stage sedimentary model for evolution of rifted continental margins. Each stage produces a diagnostic sedimentary record, and examples of each can be seen today. (1) Uplift, volcanism, rifting, and nonmarine sedimentation patterns characterize the rift valley stage. (2) In the Red Sea stage and later, restricted size and circulation of the proto-ocean create a reducing environment; chemical precipitates (halides, gypsum, and metallic sulfides) and saprophitic muds are deposited. (3) Gravity-induced processes dominate the sedimentary regime during the turbidite-fill stage, and flat-lying beds of coarse-grained, highly reflective sediments are formed. (4) Strong thermohaline contrasts in the mature ocean basin indicate geostrophic deep-water circulation. This deep-ocean current stage results in current-controlled sediment deposition and redistribution.

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