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Abstract

Final emplacement of the mid-Jurassic and mid-Cretaceous supra-subduction zone (SSZ) ophiolites onto adjacent continental areas in the Mediterranean region is synchronous with reductions in the rate of motion between Africa and stable Europe. The Apennine–Ligurian–Alpine ophiolites lack SSZ chemistry, are mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB)-like, range in age from c. 169 to 148 Ma, and were emplaced in late Cretaceous and Cenozoic time. The Hellenic–Dinaric SSZ ophiolites include some MORB, ranging from 173 to 168 Ma, and were emplaced, eroded, and covered by younger sediments by c. 140 Ma. The creation of the Apennine–Ligurian–Alpine and Hellenic–Dinaric suites is attributed to the motion of Adria, which formed a promontory on Africa, or essentially moved with it, as the central Atlantic opened. Extension to the west of Adria gave rise to the Ligurian Sea, generating MORB crust; to the east, a pre-existing Triassic ocean was subducted, with rollback creating Jurassic SSZ ophiolites that were emplaced onto adjacent continental margins in the later stages of convergence. The two episodes of slower motions between Africa and Europe are attributed to two episodes of attempted subduction of a passive continental margin. This speculation suggests that emplacement of some SSZ ophiolites may exert a significant control on oceanic spreading patterns.

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