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Geosciences 2017, 7(3), 71; doi:10.3390/geosciences7030071

Thick-Skinned and Thin-Skinned Tectonics: A Global Perspective

Institute of Geological Sciences, University of Bern, Baltzerstr. 1+3, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
Received: 10 July 2017 / Revised: 26 July 2017 / Accepted: 7 August 2017 / Published: 17 August 2017

Abstract

This paper gives an overview of the large-scale tectonic styles encountered in orogens worldwide. Thin-skinned and thick-skinned tectonics represent two end member styles recognized in mountain ranges. Both styles are encountered in former passive margins of continental plates. Thick-skinned style including the entire crust and possibly the lithospheric mantle are associated with intracontinental contraction. Delamination of subducting continental crust and horizontal protrusion of upper plate crust into the opening gap occurs in the terminal stage of continent-continent collision. Continental crust thinned prior to contraction is likely to develop relatively thin thrust sheets of crystalline basement. A true thin-skinned type requires a detachment layer of sufficient thickness. Thickness of the décollement layer as well as the mechanical contrast between décollement layer and detached cover control the style of folding and thrusting within the detached cover units. In subduction-related orogens, thin- and thick-skinned deformation may occur several hundreds of kilometers from the plate contact zone. Basin inversion resulting from horizontal contraction may lead to the formation of basement uplifts by the combined reactivation of pre-existing normal faults and initiation of new reverse faults. In most orogens thick-skinned and thin-skinned structures both occur and evolve with a pattern where nappe stacking propagates outward and downward. View Full-Text
Keywords: thin-skinned tectonics; thick-skinned tectonics; structural geology; structure of mountain ranges; fold-and-thrust belts; décollement; nappe stacking; continent-continent collision; subduction; basin inversion thin-skinned tectonics; thick-skinned tectonics; structural geology; structure of mountain ranges; fold-and-thrust belts; décollement; nappe stacking; continent-continent collision; subduction; basin inversion
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Pfiffner, O.A. Thick-Skinned and Thin-Skinned Tectonics: A Global Perspective. Geosciences 2017, 7, 71.

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