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Abstract

The study focuses on the role of wrenching-involved continental break-up in microcontinent release, drawing from a review of examples. It indicates that the main groups of release mechanisms in this setting are associated with ‘competing wrench faults’, ‘competing horsetail structure elements’, ‘competing rift zones’ and ‘multiple consecutive tectonic events’ controlled by different stress regimes capable of release. Competing-wrench-fault-related blocks are small, up to a maximum 220 km in length. They are more-or-less parallel to oceanic transforms. The competing horsetail-structure-element-related blocks are larger (up to 610 km in length) and are located at an acute angle to the transform. Competing-rift-zone-related blocks are large (up to 815 km) and are either parallel or perpendicular to the transform. The multiple-consecutive-tectonic-event-related blocks have variable size and are generally very elongate, ranging up to 1100 km in length. The role of strike-slip faults in release of continental blocks resides in:

  • linking the extensional zones, where the blocks are already isolated, by their propagation through the remaining continental bridges and subsequent displacement;

  • facilitating rapid crustal thinning across a narrow zone of strike-slip-dominated faults; and

  • slicing the margin into potentially detachable fault blocks.

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