Cenozoic convergence between the Eurasian and African plates and concurrent slab roll-back processes have produced a progressive extension in back-arc areas, such as the Aegean region and western Anatolia. There is still a long-standing controversy as to whether this was a continuous or stepwise process. To shed light on this controversy and on the driving mechanism of regional extension, we present palaeomagnetic and geochronological results from the Söke Basin located at the southeastern rim of the İzmir–Balıkesir Transfer Zone. Our improved geochronology shows that volcanic activity in the region occurred between 11.66 and 12.85 Ma. Middle to late Miocene palaeomagnetic data for the Söke Basin show a c. 23° clockwise rotation, whereas early Miocene data show a c. 28° counterclockwise rotation. The primary nature of the magnetization is indicated by a positive tilt test. The resulting c. 51° counterclockwise rotations during the middle Miocene signify a major tectonic reorganization, during a period when an interruption of exhumation of metamorphic massifs has been reported. We suggest that the İzmir–Balıkesir Transfer Zone is the main driver of the reorganization in the region. The regional fingerprint of this tectonic reorganization coincides with the acceleration of trench retreat and illustrates the surface impact of tearing of the Hellenic slab.

Supplementary material: Details of 40Ar/39Ar analysis including heating steps and the output (.pmag) file including details of paleomagnetic analysis performed in this study are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3690871

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