Letter | Published:

Plate boundary reorganization at a large-offset, rapidly propagating rift

Nature volume 378, pages 167170 (09 November 1995) | Download Citation

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Abstract

THE existence of rapidly spinning microplates along the southern East Pacific Rise has been documented by geophysical swath-mapping surveys1–6, and their evolution has been successfully described by an edge-driven kinematic model7. But the mechanism by which such microplates originate remains unknown. Proposed mechanisms1–10 have generally involved rift propagation11, possibly driven by hotspots or changes in direction of sea-floor spreading. Here we present geophysical data collected over the Earth's fastest spreading centre, the Pacific–Nazca ridge between the Easter and Juan Fernandez microplates (Fig. 1), which reveal a large-offset propagating rift presently reorganizing the plate boundary geometry. A recent episode of rapid 'duelling' propagation of the historically failing spreading centre in this system has created a 120 × 120 km overlap zone between dual active spreading centres, which may be the initial stage of formation of a new microplate.

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Affiliations

  1. Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA

    • R. N. Hey
    • , P. D. Johnson
    •  & F. Martinez
  2. MIT/WHOI Joint Program, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

    • J. Korenaga
  3. Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, Wormley, Godalming GU8 5UB, UK

    • M. L. Somers
    • , Q. J. Huggett
    • , T. P. LeBas
    •  & R. I. Rusby
  4. Department of Marine Science, University of South Florida, St Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA

    • D. F. Naar

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https://doi.org/10.1038/378167a0

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