We present the results of an integrated field and laboratory investigation of the deformation mechanisms associated with nucleation and development of normal faults across heterogeneously layered Cretaceous carbonates. These results shed a new light on the role of partitioning of failure structures in the fault growth across such a carbonate multi-layer. Structural data show that the oldest structural elements consist of low-angle to bedding pressure solution seams, which formed during burial diagenesis of limestone rocks, such as wackestones, containing a large amount of carbonate mud. Subsequently, we envision that normal fault nucleated due to shearing of these burial-related structures. Continuous slip along the sheared low-angle pressure solution seams localized fault-related dilation in the surrounding stiffer carbonate beds, which mainly consisted of packestones and dolostones. In particular, dilation localized within releasing jogs, as shown by the high frequency of high-angle to bedding splay joints. The splay joints were eventually sheared during fault development due to fault-related bed tilting. Linkage of the sheared elements originally compartmentalized within individual beds, which were characterized by variable cut-off angles, determined the observed scalloped vertical trace of the through-going normal faults across the carbonate multi-layer.

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