The Zermatt–Saas Zone is an eclogite-facies meta-ophiolite unit representing the fossil oceanic lithosphere of the Jurassic Tethys. In the Italian Northwestern Alps, the Zermatt–Saas Zone includes a chaotic rock unit, or mélange, c. 40 m thick, interposed between serpentinites and calcschists. The mélange consists of decimetre-scale ultramafic layers and boudins embedded in a serpentine + carbonate-rich matrix showing a block-in-matrix fabric. The mélange has the same Alpine tectonometamorphic evolution as the surrounding rocks, starting with a prograde path developed under high-pressure (HP) conditions followed by a retrograde path during exhumation. The kinematic and metamorphic relations between inside- and outside-boudin foliations indicate that boudinage and shearing developed during the prograde HP path. Fluid–rock interaction enhanced shearing and focused ductile and brittle–ductile deformation along lithological contacts between rigid blocks and boudins and flowing carbonaceous matrix. Despite a pervasive orogenic evolution, the primary tectonosedimentary features of the mélange are still recognizable in some outcrops and are attributed to an intra-oceanic (Jurassic) setting characterized by mass-transport processes. The present-day fabric of the studied mélange unit thus results from the superimposition of the Alpine processes, responsible for fluid-assisted stratal disruption and mixing in the subduction channel, on the original stratigraphy formed during intra-oceanic gravitational processes.

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Thematic collection: This article is part of the Ophiolites, melanges and blueschists collection available at:

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