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Heterogeneous strain commonly serves as an important natural instrument for unraveling complex tectonic histories in polyphase metamorphic terranes. We present key examples of multi-scale heterogeneous deformation from two classic deep-crustal granulite terranes, the Athabasca Granulite Terrane in western Canada and the Limpopo Complex in southern Africa. These examples are chosen to illustrate how localized strain and attendant metamorphism played a key role in the development and preservation of important records of deep-crustal processes. In addition, several common characteristics of these terranes are identified through this analysis and include heterogeneous deep-crustal flow, regional-scale tectonic heterogeneity, and multistage exhumation with high-resolution records developed in locally hydrated shear zones. Better recognition of the fundamental spatial and temporal heterogeneity in these and other similar polymetamorphic terranes may help to reconcile apparently conflicting interpretations and tectonic models.

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