The northwest Mediterranean Basin includes a thick Messinian salt sequence composed of three evaporitic units. From these, the intermediate unit, which is dominantly composed of halite, acted as a gravitational detachment favoring the downslope failure of the overlying sediments in a thin-skinned deformation regime. As a result, the structure of the margin is characterized by an upper extensional domain with basinward-dipping listric normal faults and a lower contractional domain that accommodates upslope extension by folding, salt inflation, or diapir squeezing. Lower to middle Miocene volcanic seamounts (presalt reliefs) located at the upper extensional domain locally disrupted the evaporitic units and produced salt flow perturbations. They acted as passive buttresses during the gravitational failure modifying the structural zonation of the margin. Using an experimental approach (sandbox models), we analyze the role played by seamounts during the kinematic evolution of passive margins and how they alter salt flow and suprasalt deformation during gravitational gliding. The experiments found that the seamounts locally interrupt the structural zonation of the margin because they hindered downdip salt flow during early deformation. Seamounts initially compartmentalize the margin architecture, resulting in the development of two gravitational subsystems with two extensional/contractional pairs that are subsequently reconnected when the accumulation of salt analog upslope of the relief is enough to overthrust it. From this point onward, the cover is passively translated downslope as a regional system. The changes in the viscous layer flow velocity related to the dip differences between the flanks and edges of the seamount determine the kinematic evolution of this system. Our experiments also provide geometric constraints to consider during interpretation of these structures, which are commonly poorly imaged in seismic data.

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