, Volume 90, Issue 3, pp 685-702
Date: 01 Mar 2001

Multi-stage thrusting at the "Penninic Front" in the Western Alps between Mont Blanc and Pelvoux massifs

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The different segments of the tectonic boundary between external (European) and internal (Penninic) units in the Western Alps, the so-called Penninic Front (PF), formed at different times and according to different kinematic scenarios. During a first episode (Eocene), the PF corresponds to a transpressive suture zone between Penninic and European units. North- to NNW-trending stretching lineations, found along internal nappe contacts within the Penninic units, are related to this episode. This subduction zone was sealed by the Priabonian flysch of the Aiguilles d'Arves, a detrital trench formation that formed during the final stages of subduction. During a second episode, starting in mid-Oligocene times, the PF, imaged along the ECORS-CROP profile, acted as a WNW-directed thrust. This thrust, the Roselend Thrust (RT), only partially coincides with the PF. South of Moûtiers, the RT propagates into the Dauphinois units, carrying the former Eocene PF (including the Priabonian flysch) passively in its hangingwall. South of the Pelvoux massif the RT finds its continuation along the "Briançonnais Front", an out-of-sequence thrust behind the Embrunais–Ubaye nappes. On a larger scale, our findings indicate oblique (sinistral) collision within the future Western Alps during the Eocene, followed by westward indentation of the Adriatic block.