Solidified frictional melts, or pseudotachylytes, remain the only unambiguous indicator of seismic slip in the geological record. However, pseudotachylytes form at >5 km depth, and there are many rock types in which they do not form at all. We performed low- to high-velocity rock friction experiments designed to impose realistic coseismic slip pulses on calcite fault gouges, and report that localized dynamic recrystallization may be an easy-to-recognize microstructural indicator of seismic slip in shallow, otherwise brittle fault zones. Calcite gouges with starting grain size <250 μm were confined up to 26 MPa normal stress using a purpose-built sample holder. Slip velocities were between 0.01 and 3.4 m s−1, and total displacements between 1 and 4 m. At coseismic slip velocities ≥0.1 m s−1, the gouges were cut by reflective principal slip surfaces lined by polygonal grains <1 μm in size. The principal slip surfaces were flanked by <300 μm thick layers of dynamically recrystallized calcite (grain size 1–10 μm) containing well-defined shape- and crystallographic-preferred orientations. Dynamic recrystallization was accompanied by fault weakening and thermal decomposition of calcite to CO2 + CaO. The recrystallized calcite aggregates resemble those found along the principal slip surface of the Garam thrust, South Korea, exhumed from <5 km depth. We suggest that intense frictional heating along the experimental and natural principal slip surfaces resulted in localized dynamic recrystallization, a microstructure that may be diagnostic of seismic slip in the shallow crust.

You do not have access to this content, please speak to your institutional administrator if you feel you should have access.