Magma-poor ocean-continent transitions at distal rifted margins record complex stratigraphic interactions engendered by extreme crustal thinning and mantle exhumation. The Tasna ocean-continent transition, exposed in the Middle Penninic Tasna nappe in eastern Switzerland, is so far the only known example where the lateral transition from continental crust to exhumed serpentinized mantle lithosphere is exposed and not overprinted by later Alpine deformation. This paper presents sedimentological, structural, and petrographical observations and detrital zircon provenance data to document: (1) the processes controlling continental hyperextension and mantle exhumation; and (2) the facies, depositional systems, sediment sources, delivery pathways, and depositional stacking patterns associated with magma-poor ocean-continent transitions. Our results show that the basement units of the Tasna ocean-continent transition are composed of prerift upper and lower crust and subcontinental mantle rocks juxtaposed as part of the continental crustal thinning process. The absence of pervasive, synrift deformation in the lower-crustal rocks indicates that the thinning was likely achieved by deformation along localized shear zones before being exhumed at the seafloor by brittle, late extensional detachment faulting and not by any form of lower-crustal flow.
The age of the first sediments deposited on the continental crust and exhumed mantle, the so-called Tonschiefer Formation, is considered to be Late Jurassic. A key observation is that the restored morpho-tectonic and sedimentary evolution of the Tasna ocean-continent transition shows the intercalation of downdip, transported platform-derived sediments and along-axis–derived siliciclastic sediments originating from the recycling of prerift sediments, local basement, and/or extra-Alpine sources.