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The West Iberia margin is a magma-poor rifted margin that resulted from Jurassic to Cretaceous polyphase rifting leading to the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean. The Mesozoic rift structures were overprinted by two compressive tectonic events during Eocene and Miocene times resulting from collision between Iberia, Europe and Africa. The effects of these compressive tectonic events are expressed by faults and folds within the post-rift sedimentary sequence. We mapped and studied these Cenozoic deformation structures throughout the Southern Iberia Abyssal Plain (40°–41°N, 11°–13°W) on the basis of an extensive dataset of time migrated seismic profiles acquired by various academic institutions. Acoustic basement has also been analysed on the basis of its seismic aspect, in order to test potential relationships with the distribution of the post-rift sedimentary deformation.

Our observations lead to three major conclusions concerning the deformation affecting the post-rift sediments in the Southern Iberia Abyssal Plain: (1) the deformation occurs within the zone of exhumed continental mantle and not at its transition to continental or oceanic crust; (2) it is localized within a zone overlying basement with well-defined seismic characteristics; and (3) it is closely related to the major topographic features observed in the ocean–continent transition. The localization of the deformation within the zone of exhumed continental mantle and not at its boundaries to the adjacent oceanic and continental crust suggests that the limits between the different types of crust are transitional rather than sharp. Our results show that the zone of exhumed continental mantle represents the weakest zone within the margin that is preferentially deformed during initial convergence. At higher convergence rates, this zone may coincide with the location of a future subduction.

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