Large-scale flat-lying isoclinal folding in extending lithosphere: Santa María de la Alameda dome (Central Iberian Massif, Spain)

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The exhumation mechanisms of deep-seated continental crust can be constrained by analyzing the structural and metamorphic imprints left in lithological ensembles. The Santa María de la Alameda dome formed during the collision of Gondwana and Laurussia in late Paleozoic time and is located in the Central Iberian Zone of the Iberian Massif (Spain). Rocks of the dome are part of the autochthonous Gondwanan sections of the Variscan belt, and they occur in the Variscan hinterland. The lithostratigraphy of the dome consists of metasedimentary rocks alternating with orthogneiss massifs showing irregular and sinuous structure. The metamorphic record indicates peak pressures indicative of lower-crust depths followed by isothermal decompression to middle-upper-crust levels. Exhumation resulted in the exposure of different crustal levels (represented by subsolidus vs. supersolidus mineral assemblages). The exhumation was accompanied by initial layer-parallel stretching and subsequent large-scale isoclinal folding developed in a heterogeneous, flat-lying shear zone with top-to-the-SE kinematics. SE-directed shearing and lateral extensional flow occurred in response to thermomechanical disequilibrium of previously thickened orogenic crust, probably assisted by coeval accretion of tectonic slices and lithospheric bending about a vertical axis. Positive feedback among partial melting, exhumation, and crustal attenuation resulted in the formation of a NE-SW–trending, migmatite-cored dome, and in refolding of early isoclinal folds and an associated axial surface regional foliation. The dome formed beneath a set of extensional detachments and was reshaped by WNW-ESE upright folds during later convergent deformation. The latter event brought in further instabilities throughout the belt, triggering in this region the development of a late extensional detachment under low-grade metamorphic conditions (top-to-the-S kinematics). The development of a regional train of flat-lying isoclinal folds is presented here as the macrostructural expression of the combination of vertical and lateral extensional flow, both of which are particularly common in orogens worldwide.
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