Earthquake rupture complexity is described for three recent large underthrusting earthquakes along the Costa Rican subduction zone, the 1983 Osa, 1990 Nicoya Gulf, and 1999 Quepos events. These earthquakes occurred in regions characterized by distinctly different morphologic features on the subducting plate. The 1990 and 1999 events occurred along linear projections of subducting seamount chains and had fairly simple earthquake rupture histories. Both events are interpreted as failure of the basal contact of closely spaced isolated seamounts acting as asperities. In contrast, the 1983 event occurred along the subducting Cocos Ridge and had a complex rupture history. Comparison of rupture characteristics of these large underthrusting earthquakes with size and location of subducting features provides evidence that seamounts can be subducted to seismogenic depths and that variations in seafloor bathymetry of the subducting plate strongly influence the earthquake rupture process.

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