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Crustal structure of the East African Limpopo margin, a strike-slip rifted corridor along the continental Mozambique Coastal Plain and North Natal Valley

Abstract : Coincident wide-angle and multi-channel seismic data acquired within the scope of the PAMELA Moz3-5 project allow us to reconsider the formation mechanism of East African margins offshore of southern Mozambique. This study specifically focuses on the sedimentary and deep-crustal architecture of the Limpopo margin (LM) that fringes the eastern edge of the Mozambique's Coastal Plain (MCP) and its offshore southern prolongation the North Natal Valley (NNV). It relies primarily on the MZ3 profile that runs obliquely from the northeastern NNV towards the Mozambique basin (MB) with additional inputs from a tectonostratigraphy analysis of industrial onshore-offshore seismic lines and nearby or crossing velocity models from companion studies. Over its entire N-S extension the LM appears segmented into (1) a western domain that shows the progressive eastward crustal thinning and termination of the MCP/NNV continental crust and its overlying pre-Neocomian volcano-sedimentary basement and (2) a central corridor of anomalous crust bounded to the east by the Mozambique fracture zone (MFZ) and the oceanic crust of the MB. A prominent basement high marks the boundary between these two domains. Its development was most probably controlled by a steep and deeply rooted fault, i.e., the Limpopo fault. We infer that strike-slip or slightly transtensional rifting occurred along the LM and was accommodated along this Limpopo fault. At depth we propose that ductile shearing was responsible for the thinning of the continental crust and an oceanward flow of lower crustal material. This process was accompanied by intense magmatism that extruded to form the volcanic basement and gave the corridor its peculiar structure and mixed nature. The whole region remained at a relative high level during the rifting period and a shallow marine environment dominated the pre-Neocomian period during the early phase of continent-ocean interaction. It is only some time after break-up in the MB and the initiation of the MFZ that decoupling occurred between the MCP/NNV and the corridor, allowing for the latter to subside and become covered by deep marine sediments. A scenario for the early evolution and formation of the LM is proposed taking into account both recent kinematic and geological constraints. It implies that no or little change in extensional direction occurred between the intra-continental rifting and subsequent phase of continent-ocean interaction.
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Mikael Evain, Philippe Schnürle, Angélique Leprêtre, Fanny Verrier, Louise Watremez, et al.. Crustal structure of the East African Limpopo margin, a strike-slip rifted corridor along the continental Mozambique Coastal Plain and North Natal Valley. Solid Earth, 2021, 12, pp.1865-1897. ⟨10.5194/se-12-1865-2021⟩. ⟨insu-03664863⟩

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