From a detailed survey and sampling study of corrugated massifs north of the Fifteen-Twenty Fracture Zone on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, we demonstrate that their surfaces are low-angle detachment fault planes, as proposed but not previously verified. Spreading-direction–parallel striations on the massifs occur at wavelengths from kilometers to centimeters. Oriented drill-core samples from the striated surfaces are dominated by fault rocks with low-angle shear planes and highly deformed greenschist facies assemblages that include talc, chlorite, tremolite, and serpentine. Deformation was very localized and occurred in the brittle regime; no evidence is seen for ductile deformation of the footwall. Synkinematic emplacement of diabase dikes into the fault zone from an immediately subjacent gabbro pluton implies that the detachment must have been active as a low-angle fault surface at very shallow levels directly beneath the ridge axis. Strain localization occurred in response to the weakening of a range of hydrous secondary minerals at a very early stage and was highly efficient.

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