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The Laptev Sea in the Siberian Arctic represents a unique tectonic junction of an active spreading ridge, the Gakkel Ridge in the Eurasian oceanic basin, with the Siberian Arctic continental margin. New long-offset seismic profiles acquired in recent years provide a reliable basis for deciphering the structural and seismic stratigraphic characteristics of the Laptev Rift System. The tectonic development of the Laptev Shelf represents a sequence of four phases controlled by relative plate movements: (1) intense brittle normal faulting (an initial rifting or stretching phase) affected the entire shelf in the Late Cretaceous(?)–Paleocene(?); (2) a thinning/exhumation phase resulted in exhumation of the lower continental crust and probably upper mantle in the western part of the rift system – this phase is inferred to have occurred during the Late Paleocene to Early Eocene, preceding and accompanying continental break-up in the Eurasia Basin; (3) a stalled rift phase characterized by either a dramatically reduced rate of extension, or a non-extension/compression regime controlled by major reorganization of the plate movements – the onset of this fourth phase is inferred to coincide with the initiation of seafloor spreading in the southern Eurasia Basin at around 53–50 Ma; and (4) reactivation of the rifting in the mid-Miocene (a second rift phase).

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