Abstract

The Betic-Rif arcuate mountain belt (southern Spain, northern Morocco) has been interpreted as a symmetrical collisional orogen, partly collapsed through convective removal of its lithospheric mantle root, or else as resulting of the African plate subduction beneath Iberia, with further extension due either to slab break-off or to slab retreat. In both cases, the Betic-Rif orogen would show little continuity with the western Alps. However, it can be recognized in this belt a composite orocline which includes a deformed, exotic terrane, i.e. the Alboran Terrane, thrust through oceanic/transitional crust-floored units onto two distinct plates, i.e. the Iberian and African plates. During the Jurassic-Early Cretaceous, the yet undeformed Alboran Terrane was part of a larger, Alkapeca microcontinent bounded by two arms of the Tethyan-African oceanic domain, alike the Sesia-Margna Austroalpine block further to the northeast. Blueschist- and eclogite-facies metamorphism affected the Alkapeka northern margin and adjacent oceanic crust during the Late Cretaceous-Eocene interval. This testifies the occurrence of a SE-dipping subduction zone which is regarded as the SW projection of the western Alps subduction zone. During the late Eocene-Oligocene, the Alkapeca-Iberia collision triggered back-thrust tectonics, then NW-dipping subduction of the African margin beneath the Alboran Terrane. This Maghrebian-Apenninic subduction resulted in the Mediterranean basin opening, and drifting of the deformed Alkapeca fragments through slab roll back process and back-arc extension, as reported in several publications. In the Gibraltar area, the western tip of the Apenninic-Maghrebian subduction merges with that of the Alpine-Betic subduction zone, and their Neogene roll back resulted in the Alboran Terrane collage astride the Azores-Gibraltar transpressive plate boundary. Therefore, the Betic-Rif belt appears as an asymmetrical, subduction/collision orogen formed through a protracted evolution straightfully related to the Alpine-Apenninic mountain building.

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