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Regional shear zones are interpreted from Bouguer gravity data over northern polar to low southern latitudes of Venus. Offset and deflection of horizontal gravity gradient edges (‘worms’) and lineaments interpreted from displacement of Bouguer anomalies portray crustal structures, the geometry of which resembles both regional transcurrent shear zones bounding or cross-cutting cratons and fracture zones in oceanic crust on Earth. High Bouguer anomalies and thinned crust comparable to the Mid-Continent Rift in North America suggest underplating of denser, mantle-derived mafic material beneath extended crust in Sedna and Guinevere planitia on Venus. These rifts are partitioned by transfer faults and flank a zone of mantle upwelling (Eistla Regio) between colinear hot, upwelling mantle plumes. Data support the northward drift and indentation of Lakshmi Planum in western Ishtar Terra and >1000 km of transcurrent displacement between Ovda and Thetis regiones. Large displacements of areas of continent-like crust on Venus are interpreted to result from mantle tractions and pressure acting against their deep lithospheric mantle ‘keels’ commensurate with extension in adjacent rifts. Displacements of Lakshmi Planum and Ovda and Thetis regiones on Venus, a planet without plate tectonics, cannot be attributed to plate boundary forces (i.e. ridge push and slab pull). Results therefore suggest that a similar, subduction-free geodynamic model may explain deformation features in Archaean greenstone terrains on Earth. Continent-like ‘drift’ on Venus also resembles models for the late Cenozoic–Recent Earth, where westward translation of the Americas and northward displacement of India are interpreted as being driven by mantle flow tractions on the keels of their Precambrian cratons.

Supplementary material:

Bouguer gravity and topographic images over a segment of the Mid-Atlantic ridge and Ross Island and surrounds in Antarctica, principal horizontal stress trajectories about mantle plumes on Earth, map and interactive 3D representations of cratonic keels beneath North America from seismic tomography, and a centrifuge simulation for comparison with Venus in support of our tectonic model are available at

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