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Lithologic heterogeneity, mechanical anisotropy and the formation of deep crustal shear zones in Fiordland, New Zealand

Daniel S. King, University of Vermont, Department of Geology, Burlington, Vermont, [email protected]


Fiordland, New Zealand is a unique setting where rocks deformed in the middle to lower continental crust during the Cretaceous are exposed at the surface with a well-constrained exhumation history.  Data from shoreline and ridgeline exposures illustrates the role of pre-existing lithologic and structural heterogeneity in controlling the formation of steep and gently dipping structures during the initiation and evolution of extensional and transpressional shear zones.  Field observations show that deformation is localized within rheologically weak layers, such as marble, as well as along the boundaries between different lithologies.  Spatial variations in structures within one lithology show that the primary mechanism for the formation of steep transpressional foliations was folding of pre-existing, flat-lying foliations and compositional layering.  This process resulted in a network of steeply dipping shear zones superimposed on flat-lying foliations in a ~10km wide region.  Deformation during extension produced a network of interconnected low-angle shear zones that form antithetic/synthetic pairs.  Extensional deformation was focused within a ~500m thick marble-rich layer along a major lithologic boundary.  Transpressional shear zones developed in locations where the structural weakness of flat-lying foliations facilitated the formation of steep foliations through folding.  The formation of extensional shear zones along lithologic boundaries demonstrates how compositional heterogeneity controls shear zone formation.  These processes are important at various scales ranging from meters to tens of kilometers within the entire lower crustal section.