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Traditionally, geologists have viewed strike-slip stepover regions as progressively increasing in structural relief with increasing slip along the principal displacement zones (PDZs). In contrast, some stepover regions may migrate along the strike of the PDZs with respect to deposits affected by them, leaving a ‘wake’ of formerly affected deposits trailing the active stepover region. Such stepovers generate comparatively little structural relief at any given location. For restraining bends of this type, little exhumation and erosion takes place at any given location. Another characteristic of migrating stepovers is local tectonic inversion that may migrate along the strike of the PDZs. This is most easily observed for migrating releasing bends where the wake is composed of former pull-apart basin deposits that have been subject to shortening and uplift. This type of basin inversion occurs along the San Andreas Fault, wherein the wake is affected by regional transpression. Some migrating stepovers may evolve by propagation of the PDZ on one side of the stepover, and shut-off of the PDZ on the other side. Possible examples of migrating stepovers are present along the northern San Andreas fault system at scales from metres (sag ponds and pressure ridges) to tens of kilometres (large basins and transpressional uplifts). Migrating stepovers and ‘traditional’ stepovers may be end members of stepover evolutionary types, and the ratio of wake length to the amount of slip along the PDZs during stepover development measures the ‘migrating stepover component’ of a given stepover. For a ‘pure’ migrating type, the wake length may be equal to or greater than the PDZ cumulative slip during the time of stepover evolution, whereas for a ‘pure’ traditional type, there would be no wake.

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