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Exploration experience gained in specific salt basins of West Africa may not be directly applicable to other salt basins along the entire passive margin. To conduct a comparative structural analysis, regional reflection seismic transects were constructed across the salt basins of Morocco, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola.

Regional-scale similarities of the salt basins include the progressive complication of salt-related structures basinward, the change from an extensional domain on the shelf to a compressional domain on the slope and the presence of a toe-thrust front at the oceanward edge of the basins. Regional-scale differences are partly attributed to the relative stratigraphic position of the salt in relation to the rift history.

In the better-known post-rift salt basins of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo and Angola updip extension is represented by a broad rafted domain balanced by downdip contraction in the form of salt tongues, canopies and a toe-thrust zone. The efficiency of this gravity sliding/spreading across the whole margin is due to the more or less uniform original distribution of Aptian salt in the post-rift succession forming a continuous detachment level.

In contrast, the typically uneven original distribution of the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic syn-rift salt in Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau is due to basement highs separating rift half-grabens and creating a different structural pattern. Individual salt structures, such as pillows and diapirs, originated from isolated patches of the autochthonous salt. In the case of syn-rift salt, updip extension may not always be the ultimate driving force for the contractional salt-deformation downdip.

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