It is widely recognized that drastic changes of deformation style have occurred in the Southern Apennines around the late Pliocene and the middle Pleistocene, passing from a dominant compressional tectonics, associated with the Pliocene accretion of the belt, into a much more complex setting, characterized by sinistral strike-slip, NE-SW extension, acceleration of uplift in the axial and outer sectors of the belt and subsidence in some zones of the Tyrrhenian coastal margin. We argue that such tectonic reorganisations can be explained as effects of major changes in the kinematics of the Adriatic plate, induced by first order tectonic events in the surrounding regions. The first, in the late Pliocene, was the suture of the Southern Apennines consuming boundary and the second, in the middle Pleistocene, was the reactivation of the underthrusting of the Adriatic lithosphere beneath the Southern Dinarides-Northern Hellenides. The deformation pattern predicted in the Southern Apennines and in the other peri-Adriatic zones by the proposed kinematic/tectonic interpretation is consistent with a large amount of geological and geomorphological evidence and with the main features of seismic activity.

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