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Abstract

We develop a method for constraining the kinematics and finite strain of deformation in shear zones based on a three-dimensional numerical model of the rotation populations of rigid clasts. The results of the model are characterized in terms of a fabric ellipsoid, which is directly measurable from field data. Fabric ellipsoids measured from populations of prolate clasts have anisotropies that increase steadily and plateau; the shape of the fabric ellipsoid becomes increasingly more prolate with progressive deformation. The behaviour of populations of oblate clasts is much more complex because the stability of individual oblate clasts depends on their aspect ratio and the vorticity of deformation. Populations of oblate clasts may produce fabric ellipsoids with oscillating anisotropies and shapes if their aspect ratio is low enough for a continuous rotation. For either prolate or oblate clasts, the maximum anisotropy that a fabric ellipsoid will reach is governed by the aspect ratio of the individual clasts of that population. The theoretical maximum anisotropy is achieved when all of the clasts are perfectly aligned. The shape of the fabric ellipsoid, in conjuncture with the anisotropy, can be used to constrain the vorticity and finite strain of deformation.

The numerical model suggests that there is no consistent relationship between the asymmetrical orientation of a population of rigid markers and the simple shear component of deformation. Therefore, the asymmetrical alignment of a population of porphyroclasts is not a reliable shear sense indicator. Additionally, there is no direct correlation between the fabric ellipsoid and the strain ellipsoid.

Model results are applied to shape preferred orientation data collected from a feldspar megacrystic granite in the western Idaho shear zone (USA). Three-dimensional fabric ellipsoids are calculated from two-dimensional sectional measurements of oblate-shaped, unmantled, potassium feldspar porphyroclasts. Comparison of these data with the results of the numerical model suggests that transpressional deformation had an intermediate angle of oblique convergence (30°–60°). This implies that deformation in the western Idaho shear zone was characterized by a large component of convergent motion.

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