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In this paper, we document the early stage of fault-zone development based on detailed observations of mesocale faults in layered rocks. The vertical propagation of the studied faults is stopped by layer-parallel faults contained in a weak layer. This restriction involves a flat-topped throw profile along the fault plane and modifications of the fault structures near the restricted tips, with geometries ranging from planar structures to fault zones characterized by abundant parallel fault segments. The ‘far-field’ displacement (i.e. the sum of the displacement accumulated by all the fault segments and the folding) measured along the restricted faults exhibiting this segmentation may have flat-topped shapes or triangular shapes when fault-related folding is observed above the layer-parallel faults. We develop a model from the observations. In this model, during the course of restriction, a fault forms as a simple isolated planar structure, then parallel fault segments successively initiate to accommodate the increasing displacement. We assume that, eventually, the fault propagates beyond the layer-parallel fault. This model implies first that fault widening is controlled by the fault capacity to propagate vertically in the layered section. Likewise, owing to restriction, fault growth occurs with non-linear increases in maximum displacement, length and thickness.

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