The Sestola Vidiciatico tectonic Unit (SVU) accommodated the early Miocene convergence between the subducting Adriatic plate and the overriding Ligurian prism, and has been interpreted as a field analogue for the shallow portion of subduction megathrusts. The SVU incorporated sediments shortly after their deposition and was active down to burial depth corresponding to temperatures around 150 °C. Here, we describe the internal architecture of the basal thrust fault of the SVU through a multi-scale structural analysis and investigate the evolution of the deformation mechanisms with increasing burial depth. At shallow depth, the thrust developed in poorly lithified sediments which deformed by particulate flow. With increasing depth and lithification of sediments, deformation was accommodated in a meter scale, heterogeneous fault zone, including multiple strands of crack-and-seal shear veins, associated with minor distributed shearing in clay-rich domains and pressure solution. In the last stage, slip localized along a sharp, 20 cm thick shear vein, deactivating the fault zone towards the footwall. The widespread formation of crack-and-seal shear veins since the first stages of lithification indicates that failure along the thrust occurred at high fluid pressure and low differential stress already at shallow depth. Progressive shear localization occurs in the last phases of deformation, at temperatures typical of the transition to the seismogenic zone in active megathrusts.

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