Lateral movement of lithospheric fragments along strike-slip faults in response to collision (escape tectonics) has characterized convergent settings since the onset of plate tectonics and is a mechanism for the formation of new plates. The Anatolian plate was created by the sequential connection of strike-slip faults following ≥10 m.y. of distributed deformation that ultimately localized into plate-bounding faults. Thermochronology data and seismic images of lithosphere structure near the East Anatolian fault zone (EAFZ) provide insights into the development of the new plate and escape system. Low-temperature thermochronology ages of rocks in and near the EAFZ are significantly younger than in other fault zones in the region, e.g., apatite (U-Th)/He: 11–1 Ma versus 27–13 Ma. Young apatite (U-Th)/He ages and thermal history modeling record thermal resetting along the EAFZ over the past ~5 m.y. and are interpreted to indicate thermal activity triggered by strike-slip faulting in the EAFZ as it formed as a through-going, lithosphere-scale structure. The mechanism for EAFZ formation may be discerned from S-wave velocity images from the Continental Dynamics–Central Anatolian Tectonics (CD-CAT) seismic experiment. These images indicate that thin but strong Arabian lithospheric mantle extends ~50–150 km north beneath Anatolian crust and would have been located near the present surficial location of the Bitlis-Zagros suture zone (co-located with the EAFZ in our study area) at ca. 5 Ma. Underthrusting of strong Arabian lithosphere facilitated localization of the EAFZ and thus was a fundamental control on the formation of the Anatolian plate and escape system.

This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.