A record of plume-induced plate rotation triggering seafloor spreading and subduction initiation

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-021-00780-7. This is version 7 of this Preprint.


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Douwe J.J. van Hinsbergen, Bernhard Steinberger, Carl Guilmette, Marco Maffione, Derya Gürer, Kalijn Peters, Alexis Plunder , Peter McPhee , Carmen Gaina , Eldert L. Advokaat , Reinoud L.M. Vissers, Wim Spakman 


The formation of a global network of plate boundaries surrounding a mosaic of lithospheric fragments was a key step in the emergence of Earth’s plate tectonics. So far, propositions for plate boundary formation are regional in nature but how plate boundaries are being created over 1000s of km in short periods of geological time remains elusive. Here, we show from geological observations that a >12,000 km long plate boundary formed between the Indian and African plates around 105 Ma with subduction segments from the eastern Mediterranean region to a newly established India-Africa rotation pole in the west-Indian ocean where it transitioned into a ridge between India and Madagascar. We find no plate tectonics-related potential triggers of this plate rotation and identify coeval mantle plume rise below Madagascar-India as the only viable driver. For this, we provide a proof of concept by torque balance modeling revealing that the Indian and African cratonic keels were important in determining plate rotation and subduction initiation in response to the spreading plume head. Our results show that plumes may provide a non-plate-tectonic mechanism for large plate rotation initiating divergent and convergent plate boundaries far away from the plume head that may even be an underlying cause of the emergence of modern plate tectonics.




Earth Sciences, Geology, Tectonics and Structure


subduction initiation, subduction, neotethys, oman, pakistan


Published: 2021-02-23 10:33

Last Updated: 2022-02-05 18:09

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Comment #16 Douwe J.J. van Hinsbergen @ 2021-03-22 20:28

Paper has been accepted in Nature Geoscience, 22/3/2021