The life span of each main class of sedimentary basin is estimated from published data. Life spans vary over at least three orders of magnitude, from <1 m.y. for trench basins to >100 m.y. for passive-margin and intracratonic basins. The life-span estimates are used to calibrate a chart of basin groups that focuses on the likely basin fates; i.e., depositional, deformational, or thermal. Consequent fates, predetermined by the tectonic setting of a particular basin class, are distinguished from contingent fates, which are independent of basin type. Accretion of trench-basin fill is, for example, a consequent fate, whereas inversion (far-field shortening) of a rift basin is a contingent fate. Life-span data are also used to calibrate the Wilson Cycle and indicate that it has an average duration of ∼260 m.y. This is certainly an underestimate, because basin life spans are an imperfect proxy for the duration of subduction and collision zones.

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