Abstract

There is strong evidence that microplates have played an important role in the tectonic evolution of the Western Mediterranean. A reconstruction of the Oligocene positions of these microplates leads to recognition of the Hercynian “Protoligurian Massif” (new term) and suggests that the Alpine belt (Late Cretaceous and early Tertiary deformation) formerly continued southwest from Alpine Corsica to Calabria and perhaps as far as the Betic Cordilleras of southern Spain. Fragments of this orogenic belt were dispersed during the Miocene-Pliocene episode of microplate movement that also produced the Apennine-Atlas orogenic belt. This hypothesis provides a new solution to the old question of why the Alps presently terminate in Corsica. A comparison of geological data from the Alps, northeastern Corsica, and Calabria supports the hypothesis that they were formerly continuous segments of the Alpine orogenic belt.

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