International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 99, Issue 8, pp 1805–1825 | Cite as

Local shear zone pattern and bulk deformation in the Gran Paradiso metagranite (NW Italian Alps)

Original Paper


The Gran Paradiso nappe of the northwestern Alps mostly consists of augen gneisses derived from the Alpine deformation of Permian granitoids. The regional foliation of the augen gneisses developed at lower amphibolite facies conditions and is associated with a top-to-west sense of shear. The granitoid protolith is preserved in the kilometre-scale low-strain domain of the Piantonetto Valley and mainly consists of a porphyritic metagranite including joints, leucocratic dykes and biotite-rich schlieren. In this low-strain domain, the Alpine deformation is mainly localized in discrete ductile shear zones within weakly foliated metagranite. The shear zones mostly dip towards S–SE in a shallow (shear zones1) to steep inclination (shear zones2). The shear zones show typical features that can be explained by reactivation of pre-existing joints and planar compositional heterogeneities. Palaeostress and strain analysis indicate that shear zones and the metagranite foliation both formed in the presence of a strong component of flattening. The kinematics of individual shear zones depends on the orientation of the original heterogeneities (acting as nucleation planes) and by partitioning of strain components at the kilometre-scale with concentration of the flattening component to the Piantonetto low-strain domain. The strain geometry and the kinematics of individual shear zones within Piantonetto are not directly connected to the top-to-west sense of tectonic transport observed elsewhere in the Gran Paradiso nappe. However, the bulk stress ellipsoid reconstructed for the incipient shear zone network within very weakly deformed granites is oriented consistently with the bulk direction of tectonic transport within the Gran Paradiso massif. We conclude that the shear zone network of the Piantonetto Valley is representative of the incipient stages of ductile deformation of a granite nappe. Even if its architecture is determined by the arrangement of pre-existing structural and compositional heterogeneities, aspects of the large-scale bulk strain can be derived from this local shear zone pattern.


Nucleation of shear zones Deformation of granites Strain analysis Flattening Gran Paradiso Western Alps 


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© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di GeoscienzeUniversità degli Studi di PadovaPadovaItaly
  2. 2.Institutt for GeologiUniversitetet i TromsøTromsøNorway

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