To investigate the effect of crustal heterogeneities inherited from previous tectonic phases on magma-poor rifting processes, we performed numerical experiments of lithospheric extension with initial conditions that included strength variations from inherited crustal fabrics. Crustal fabrics were introduced in the model by using an element-wise bimineralic composition in which mineral phases were distributed in a way that was compatible with the orientation and distribution of kilometric-scale heterogeneities observed in seismic reflection data. Our numerical models show that strength variations from inherited crustal fabrics strongly influence the mechanisms of deformation in the stretching and thinning phases of rifting. The strength variations also generate alternative models for the evolution of faulting during distributed stretching and localized thinning phases that are usually associated with detachment or sequential faulting models. During the stretching phase, inherited strength variations control the distribution and the processes of deformation. Vertical fabrics favor the formation of horst-and-graben structures. Horizontal and dipping fabrics favor the formation of detachment faults and core complexes. During the thinning phase, processes differ depending on the orientation of the crustal fabrics and involve either a combination of detachment faults and sequential normal faults or an alternative model in which deformation remains decoupled between the upper crust and lithospheric mantle, with the formation of high-angle faults in the upper crust and a low-angle detachment fault in the upper mantle. As a consequence, strength variations inherited from crustal fabrics also control the resulting geometry of the margin and the width of the necking and hyperextended domains. Finally, our models demonstrate that inherited crustal fabrics do not control breakup and mantle exhumation. These processes are ubiquitously associated with the development of new detachment faults exhuming mantle to the seafloor.

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