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The Mojave-Sonora megashear, which bounded the Jurassic southwestern margin of the North America plate from 170 to 148 Ma, may be linked northward to Alaska via the previously recognized discontinuity between the Insular and Intermontane terranes and co-genetic regional elements such as transtensional basins, transpressional uplifts, and overlapping correlative magmatic belts. The longer, continental-scale fault thus defined, which is called the Mexico-Alaska megashear, separated the North America plate from a proto-Pacific plate (the Klamath plate) and linked the axis of ocean-floor spreading within the developing Gulf of Mexico with a restraining bend above which mafic rocks were obducted eastward onto Alaskan sialic crust that converged against the Siberian platform. The fault, about 8000 km long, lies among more than a dozen large basins (and numerous smaller ones) many of which formed abruptly at ca. 169 Ma. The basins, commonly containing Middle and Late Jurassic and Cretaceous clastic and volcanic units, distinguish a locally broad belt along the western and southwestern margin of the North America plate. The basin margins commonly coincide with easterly striking normal and northwesterly striking sinistral faults although most have been reactivated during multiple episodes of movement. The pattern of intersecting faults and the rarely preserved record of displacements along them suggest that the basins are structural pull-aparts formed at releasing steps of a sinistral continental margin transform and are therefore transtensional. The width of the zone delineated by the basins is a few hundred km and extends west-northwesterly from the Gulf of Mexico across northern Mexico to southern California where it curves northward probably coincident with the San Andreas fault. Principal basins included within the southern part of the transtensional belt are recorded by strata of the Chihuahua trough, Valle San Marcos and La Mula uplift (Coahuila, Mexico), Batamote and San Antonio basins (Sonora, Mexico), Little Hatchet and East Potrillo Mountains and Chiricahua Mountains basins (New Mexico), Baboquivari Mountains Topawa Group (Arizona), regional Bisbee basin (Arizona, New Mexico, and Sonora, Mexico), Bedford Canyon, McCoy Mountains, Inyo Mountains volcanic complex and Mount Tallac basin (California). The latter probably extend into Nevada as part of the Pine Nut assemblage. At the southern margin of the Sierra Nevada of California, the inferred fault steps west then north, roughly along the Coast Range thrust and into the Klamath Mountains. The Great Valley (California) and Josephine ophiolites (Oregon) record these two major, releasing steps along the Mexico-Alaska megashear.

From the northwestern Klamath Mountains, the Mexico-Alaska megashear turns east where Jurassic contractional structures exposed in the Blue Mountains indicate a restraining bend along which transpression is manifest as the Elko orogeny. Near the border with Idaho the fault returns to a northwest strike and crosses Washington, British Columbia, and southern Alaska. Along this segment the fault mainly coincides with the eastern limit of the Alexander-Wrangellia composite terrane.

West of the fault trace in Washington, the Ingalls and Fidalgo ophiolites record separate or dismembered, co-genetic, oceanic basins. Correlative sedimentary units include Nooksack, Constitution, and Lummi Formations and the Newby Group, within the Methow basin. In British Columbia, the Relay Mountain Group of the Tyaughton basin, and Cayoosh, Brew, Nechako, Eskay, and Hotnarko strata record accumulation from Bajocian through Oxfordian within a northwestward-trending zone. From southern Alaska and northwestward correlative extension is recorded in basins by sections at Gravina, Dezadeash-Nutzotin, Wrangell Mountains, Matanuska Valley (southern Talkeetna Mountains), Tuxedni (Cook Inlet), and the southern Kahiltna domain.

The pull-apart basins began to form abruptly after the Siskiyou orogeny that interrupted late Early to Middle Jurassic subduction-related magmatism. Convergence had begun at least by the Toarcian as an oceanic proto-Pacific plate subducted eastward beneath the margin of western North America. As subduction waned following collision, sinistral faulting was initiated abruptly and almost synchronously within the former magmatic belt as well as in adjacent oceanic and continental crust to the west and east, respectively. Where transtension resulted in deep rifts, oceanic crust formed and/or volcanic eruptions took place. Sediment was accumulating in the larger basins, in places above newly formed crust, as early as Callovian (ca. 165 Ma).

The belt of pull-apart basins roughly parallels the somewhat older magmatic mid-Jurassic belt. However, in places the principal lateral faults obliquely transect the belt of arc rocks resulting in overlap (southern British Columbia; northwestern Mexico) or offset (northern Mexico) of the arc rocks of at least several hundreds of kilometers. The trace of the principal fault corresponds with fault segments, most of which have been extensively reactivated, including the following: Mojave-Sonora megashear, Melones-Bear Mountain, Wolf Creek, Bear Wallows–South Fork, Siskiyou and Soap Creek Ridge faults, Ross Lake fault zone, as well as Harrison Lake, Bridge River suture, Lillooet Lake, and Owl Creek faults. Northward within the Coast Range shear zone, pendants of continental margin assemblages are interpreted to mark the southwest wall of the inferred fault. Where the inferred trace approaches the coast, it corresponds with the megalineament along the southwest edge of the Coast Range batholithic complex. The Kitkatla and Sumdum thrust faults, which lie within the zone between the Wrangellia-Alexander-Peninsular Ranges composite terrane and Stikinia, probably formed initially as Late Jurassic strike-slip faults. The Denali fault and more northerly extensions including Talkeetna, and Chilchitna faults, which bound the northeastern margin of Wrangellia, coincide with the inferred trace of the older left-lateral fault that regionally separates the Intermontane terrane from the Wrangellia-Alexander-Peninsular Ranges composite terrane. During the Nevadan orogeny (ca. 153 ± 2 Ma), strong contraction, independent of the sinistral fault movement, overprinted the Mexico-Alaska megashear fault zone and induced subduction leading to a pulse of magmatism.

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