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Propagating rifts are extensional plate boundaries that progressively break through rigid lithosphere. If the rifting advances to the sea-floor spreading stage, propagating sea-floor spreading centers follow behind, gradually extending through the rifted lithosphere. The combination of sea-floor spreading and propagation produces a characteristic V-shaped wedge of lithosphere formed at the propagating spreading center, with progressively younger and longer isochrons abutting the pseudofaults that bound this wedge. Figure 1 shows several variations of this geometry.

Although conceptually simple, the propagating rift hypothesis has important implications for both large-scale and fine-scale plate tectonic evolution. It explains: (1) the existence of several...

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