Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The structural evolution of pull-apart basins in response to changes in plate motion

Farangitakis, G.P; McCaffrey, K.J.W.; Willingshofer, E.; Allen, M.B.; Kalnins, L.M.K.; van Hunen, J.; Persaud, P.; Sokoutis, D.

The structural evolution of pull-apart basins in response to changes in plate motion Thumbnail


G.P Farangitakis

E. Willingshofer

L.M.K. Kalnins

P. Persaud

D. Sokoutis


Pull‐apart basins are structural features linked to the interactions between strike‐slip and extensional tectonics. Their morphology and structural evolution are determined by factors such as extension rate, the basin length/width ratio, and changes in extension direction. In this work, we investigate the effect of a change in the plate motion direction on a pull‐apart basin's structure, using analogue modelling experiments with a two‐layer ductile‐brittle configuration to simulate continental crust rheology. We initially impose orthogonal extension on an interconnected rift and strike‐slip system to drive pull‐apart development. Subsequently, we rotate the relative motion vector, imposing transtensional deformation and continuing with this new relative motion vector to the end of the experiment. To compare with natural examples, we analyse the model using seismic interpretation software, generating 3D fault structure and sedimentary thickness interpretations. Results show that the change in the direction of plate motion produces map‐view sigmoidal oblique slip faults that become normal‐slip when deformation adjusts to the new plate motion vector. Furthermore, sediment distribution is strongly influenced by the relative plate rotation, changing the locus of deposition inside the basin at each model stage. Finally, we compare our observations to seismic reflection images, sedimentary package thicknesses and fault interpretations from the Northern Gulf of California and find good agreement between model and nature. Similar fault arrays occur in the Bohai Basin in northern China, which suggests a rotational component in its evolution. More broadly, such similar structures could indicate a role for oblique extension and fault rotation in any pull‐apart basin.


Farangitakis, G., McCaffrey, K., Willingshofer, E., Allen, M., Kalnins, L., van Hunen, J., …Sokoutis, D. (2021). The structural evolution of pull-apart basins in response to changes in plate motion. Basin Research, 33(2), 1603-1625.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 12, 2020
Online Publication Date Jan 20, 2021
Publication Date 2021-04
Deposit Date Jul 28, 2020
Publicly Available Date Mar 31, 2021
Journal Basin Research
Print ISSN 0950-091X
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 2
Pages 1603-1625


Published Journal Article (4.4 Mb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
© 2020 The Authors. Basin Research published by International Association of Sedimentologists and European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers and John Wiley & Sons Ltd<br /> <br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations