Fault damage zones strongly influence fluid flow and seismogenic behavior of faults and are thought to scale linearly with fault displacement until reaching a threshold thickness. Using analog modeling with different frictional layer thicknesses, we investigate damage zone dynamic evolution during normal fault growth. We show that experimental damage zone growth with displacement is not linear but progressively tends toward a threshold thickness, being larger in the thicker models. This threshold thickness increases significantly at fault segment relay zones. As the thickness threshold is approached, the failure mode progressively transitions from dilational shear to isochoric shear. This process affects the whole layer thickness and develops as a consequence of fault segment linkage as inferred in nature when the fault matures. These findings suggest that fault damage zone widths are limited both by different scales of mechanical unit thickness and the evolution of failure modes, ultimately controlled in nature by lithology and deformation conditions.

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