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The quantification of quartz shear stress and strain rate within a midcrustal shear zone provides a mechanical frame to describe the evolution from penetrative ductile deformation to localized deformation and the onset of brittle deformation. The quantification is based on the relationships between the quartz recrystallized grain size, the quartz shear stress (piezometric relation) and the strain rate (dislocation creep flow law). Increasing strain is accompanied by a general decrease of quartz recrystallized grain size and a decrease in grain size scattering. These are interpreted as a result of a complex loading history. The evolution from penetrative ductile deformation toward strain localization, marked by an increase of the strain rate by one order of magnitude, is inferred from grain size memory. Brittle deformation is triggered for quartz shear stress of the order of 70 MPa and strain rate close to 10−12 s−1. This relative low value of the quartz shear stress necessary to trigger faulting implies a less important strength for the midcrust compared with strengths predicted by classical rheological envelopes.

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