In rift basins with superposed strike-slip deformation, the structural style of wrench elements and the roles they play in synrift architecture and evolution are important, poorly understood issues for basin analysis and hydrocarbon exploration. The NE-SW−striking Tan-Lu fault zone, located in eastern China, runs through the Liaodong Bay subbasin within the Cenozoic Bohai Bay Basin and experienced dextral strike-slip motion during the later synrift stage of the basin (ca. 40 Ma to 23 Ma). Investigations of the Liaodong Bay subbasin indicate that rift-fault reactivation and wrench-fault development during strike-slip reactivation were strongly controlled by the distribution and geometry of preexisting rift faults, and local synrift basin inversion, induced by strike-slip reactivation of a preexisting graben during a later synrift stage, was a significant manifestation of synchronous strike-slip motion modifying synrift architecture and evolution. Moreover, synrift basin inversion within the Liaodong Bay subbasin manifested in two ways. First, stronger inversion occurred along the restraining bends of preexisting extensional faults. This induced uplift of the footwalls of graben-controlling faults, leading to deformation characterized by abundant shortcut thrusts and folds. The Liaodong uplift formed via this mechanism, triggered by strike-slip movement along the Tan-Lu fault zone at ca. 40 Ma. Second, weaker inversion induced by newly formed, subvertical, strike-slip faults occurred near the central part of the graben, with the characteristics of positive flower structures. Although inversion was limited to a very local area along a narrow fault zone, it substantially modified the basin’s physiography. In this rift system, coincident with local inversion-induced uplift, large-scale, rift-related subsidence occurred beyond the inversion belt within the flanking graben, leading to complexity and variety in intrabasinal structural deformation and filling, and exerting a complex influence on hydrocarbon prospects. This model of synrift basin inversion has profound implications for the interpretation of inversion structures and basin dynamics in any rift basin with superposed strike-slip deformation.

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