Three-dimensional seismic reflection data reveal the presence of a low seismic velocity zone (LVZ) with weak reflectivity character along the Nankai accretionary prism. This LVZ is intercalated between an upper, offscraped layer and a lower, underthrusting layer in the outer accretionary wedge. Wide-angle ocean bottom seismograph data also support the presence of the LVZ, which is estimated to be a maximum of ∼2 km thick, ∼15 km wide, and ∼120 km long. The LVZ could be an underthrust package underplated in response to the lateral growth of the Nankai accretionary prism. Underplating of the underthrusting layer beneath the overlying offscraped layer would maintain a critical taper of the accretionary prism so that the offscraped layer can continue to grow seaward. The LVZ could have elevated fluid pressure, leading to rigidity reduction of the entire outer accretionary wedge. The rigidity-lowered outer wedge, containing the LVZ, may be more easily uplifted and thus eventually foster tsunami generation during a Nankai megathrust earthquake. If the fluid-rich LVZ supplies a significant amount of the fluid to the megasplay fault zone at depth, it may affect stick-slip behavior of the fault.

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