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To accurately reconstruct plate configurations, there is a need for a quantitative method to calculate the amount and timing of crustal extension independent of any one model for the formation of rifted margins. This paper evaluates the suitability of the various plate modelling methods for structural inheritance studies and proposes a classification scheme for the methods that are currently in use. A palinspastic deformable margin plate kinematic model is most suitable for tectonic inheritance studies, particularly at hyperextended margins. This type of plate model provides a valuable analytical tool that can be used to show the temporal and spatial relationship between pre-existing orogenic structures, evolving rift axes and global plate reorganization events. We use a palinspastic deformable margin plate model for the southern North Atlantic and Labrador Sea to quantitatively restore up to 350 km of Mesozoic–Cenozoic extension. This provides us with a pre-rift restoration of the Proterozoic and Paleozoic terranes and structural lineaments on the conjugate margins that helps us to analyse their relationship to evolving rift axes and global plate reorganization events through time. Interpretation of these modelling results has led to a clearer understanding of the relationship between inherited structural features and their control on rifting and the break-up history.

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