Marine Geophysical Researches

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 323–359 | Cite as

Segmentation and disruption of the East Pacific Rise in the mouth of the Gulf of California

  • Peter Lonsdale


Analysis of new multibeam bathymetry and all available magnetic data shows that the 340 km-long crest of the East Pacific Rise between Rivera and Tamayo transforms contains segments of both the Pacific-Rivera and the Pacific-North America plate boundaries. Another Pacific-North America spreading segment (“Alarcon Rise”) extends 60 km further north to the Mexican continental margin. The Pacific-North America-Rivera triple junction is now of the RRR type, located on the risecrest 60 km south of Tamayo transform. Slow North America-Rivera rifting has ruptured the young lithosphere accreted to the east flank of the rise, and extends across the adjacent turbidite plain to the vicinity of the North America-Rivera Euler pole, which is located on the plate boundary. The present absolute motion of the Rivera microplate is an anticlockwise spin at 4° m.y.−1 around a pole located near its southeast corner; its motion has recently changed as the driving forces applied to its margins have changed, especially with the evolution of the southern margin from a broad shear zone between Rivera and Mathematician microplates to a long Pacific-Rivera transform. Pleistocene rotations in spreading direction, by as much as 15° on the Pacific-Rivera boundary, have segmented the East Pacific Rise into a staircase of en echelon spreading axes, which overlap at lengthening and migrating nontransform offsets. The spreading segments vary greatly in risecrest geomorphology, including the full range of structural types found on other rises with intermediate spreading rates: axial rift valleys, split shield volcanoes, and axial ridges. Most offsets between the segments have migrated southward, but within the past 1 m.y. the largest of them (with 14–27 km of lateral displacement) have shown “dueling” behavior, with short-lived reversals in migration direction. Migration involves propagation of a spreading axis into abyssal hill terrain, which is deformed and uplifted while it occupies the broad shear zones between overlapping spreading axes. Tectonic rotation of the deformed crust occurs by bookshelf faulting, which generates teleseismically recorded strike-slip earthquakes. When reversals of migration direction occur, plateaus of rotated crust are shed onto the rise flanks.

Key words

Spreading centers nontransform offsets crustal rifting 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Lonsdale
    • 1
  1. 1.Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of CaliforniaSan Diego, La JollaUSA

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