International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 96, Issue 6, pp 1033–1046 | Cite as

Lithospheric extension from rifting to continental breakup at magma-poor margins: rheology, serpentinisation and symmetry

  • T. J. RestonEmail author
  • M. Pérez-Gussinyé
Original Paper


The symmetry or asymmetry of the process of continental breakup has been much debated over the last 20 years, with various authors proposing asymmetric simple shear models, others advocating more symmetric, pure shear models and some combinations of the two. The unroofing of vast expanses of sub-continental mantle at non-volcanic margins has led some authors to argue in favour of simple shear models, but supporting evidence is lacking. Subsidence evidence from conjugate margin pairs is equivocal, and the detailed crustal and lithospheric structure of such pairs not generally well enough known to draw firm conclusions. In the Porcupine Basin, where the final stages of break-up are preserved, the development of structural asymmetry is demonstrable, and apparently related to late stage coupling of the crust to the mantle following the complete embrittlement of the crust. This agrees with theoretical modelling results, which predict that asymmetric models can develop only on a lithospheric scale when the crust and mantle are tightly coupled. However, whether such asymmetry is maintained during continued exhumation of the mantle is unclear.


Continental breakup Rifting Rift symmetry Rheological evolution Detachment faulting Serpentinisation 



I am indebted to long-term support for studies of the processes of continental breakup from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through projects Re 873/1, /3, /6, /7, and /8, all of which have contributed to the results discussed here. Much of the work presented here was carried out in conjunction with PhD students and post-docs funded by these projects. Other colleagues contributed valuable discussions, especially Cesar Ranero and Dirk Klaeschen; John Hopper and an anonymous reviewer provided helpful reviews. Lastly I would like to thank the organisers of the GV/SGF meeting in Strasbourg, 2004, for the invitation to present this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IFM-GEOMARKielGermany
  2. 2.School of Geography, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  3. 3.Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume AlmeraCSICBarcelonaSpain

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