Abstract

In the process of subducted slab capture, a spreading ridge approaches subparallel to a subduction zone following the trailing edge of a downgoing plate. Eventually the downgoing plate is too young and small to subduct, and spreading stops. The spreading ridge stalls many tens of kilometres outboard of the subduction zone. The subducted plate welds to the outboard plate across the dormant spreading center and is captured by it. The captured plate then acquires the motion of the plate it welded to. In the southwest Pacific the Pacific-Phoenix ridge approached the east Gondwana margin as the Phoenix plate subducted beneath New Zealand, the Chatham Rise and Campbell Plateau, the Lord Howe Rise (collectively, Zealandia), and Marie Byrd Land in Cretaceous time. Spreading and subduction shut down here between 110 and 105 Ma, and some sections of the Phoenix plate became welded to (captured by) the Pacific plate. Pacific plate northward motion began in Aptian time, pulling the captured subducted microplates with it. This movement exerted a basal traction on the overlying east Gondwana margin and resulted in extension of Zealandia and Marie Byrd Land. Continued Pacific northward motion rifted Zealandia from Marie Byrd Land at about 85 Ma.

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