Abstract

The distribution of Calyptogena phaseoliformis colonies in right-stepping en echelon patterns was observed by the Japanese submersible Shinkai 6500 at the foot of the landward escarpment of the northern Japan Trench at around 6437–6274 m depth. The north-south–trending Sanriku Escarpment has a thrust origin and is subparallel to the trench axis along which the Pacific plate is being subducted beneath the North America or Okhotsk plate at about 300° at a rate of about 7.8 to 8.3 cm/yr. The trends of colonies are concentrated at 250°, 300°, and 330°: each trend matches either an antithetic riedel shear, extension fracture, or synthetic riedel shear, respectively, within a left-lateral shear regime caused by the oblique subduction. Methane- and hydrogen sulfide–bearing fluid advection from depth occurs essentially along the thrust fault, but finally seeps along the fractures at the sea floor. This supplies energy to the food chain through bacteria utilizing hydrogen sulfide, then eventually sustains the Calyptogena colonies. Because the clams select the best places to survive, the geometric arrangement of the clam colonies provides a kinematic indicator of relative plate motions.

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