Abstract

A well-established event of intraplate basin inversion and basement thrusting affected central Europe in Late Cretaceous time. It is widely accepted to have resulted from the collision of the Alpine orogen with Europe's margin. At that time an early Alpine orogen, located on the leading edge of the Adria microplate, still lay far southeast of its present-day position and had entered a phase of extension after a first orogenic event characterized by W- to NW-directed thrusting. This configuration is not likely to have induced SSW-NNE–directed thrusting and folding in the future European foreland that was still separated from the Alpine wedge by a strip of oceanic lithosphere. By contrast, the onset of intraplate contraction coincides with an important change in relative motion between the European and African plates. At ca. 90 Ma, Africa's SSE-directed sinistral transform motion relative to Europe changed to NE-directed convergence. This agrees well with the timing and kinematics of intraplate thrusting in central Europe. Structures of similar age and kinematics occurring in southern France, Spain, and North Africa suggest that the Late Cretaceous pulse of contraction was caused by pinching west-central Europe's thin lithosphere between Baltica and Africa. Only since the onset of N-directed thrusting in the Alps in Paleocene or Eocene time are the kinematics of the Alps and their European foreland compatible, indicating that mechanical coupling between Africa-Europe and the Adria microplate had been achieved.

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