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Abstract

The processes of Brittle–ductile shear zone evolution and fault initiation by the coalescence of en echelon arrays of tensile cracks are quantitatively analysed in terms of displacement and temperature conditions at which they took place in very low-grade, well bedded micritic limestones from the southern Apennines, Italy. Three different types of structures are distinguished: (i) conjugate arrays of en echelon, calcite-filled tension gashes, showing extensional shear offsets; (ii) en echelon vein arrays showing incipient development of discontinuous shear-parallel fractures cutting through the tension gashes; and (iii) faulted vein arrays, in which vein array breaching by a continuous, discrete normal fault has occurred. Fluid inclusion microthermometry from vein calcite sampled from the different sets of structures (i) to (iii) above indicates that environmental conditions remained roughly constant during the different stages of vein array evolution and fault development, with average homogenization temperatures from primary fluid inclusions being in the range 130–140°C. Our results show how displacement accumulation and shear strain essentially control vein array evolution by rotation of en echelon tension gashes, fracture linkage and, eventually, fault nucleation, at approximately constant temperature.

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