Imaging subduction, collision, and extension in northern Borneo: Constraints from receiver function

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. This is version 1 of this Preprint.


Download Preprint


Amy Gilligan, David Cornwell , Nicholas Rawlinson, Felix Tongkul, Simone Pilia, Tim Greenfield, Conor Bacon


Northern Borneo (Sabah) has a complex geological history, having experienced multiple episodes of subduction, magmatism, uplift, subsidence, and extension since the Mesozoic. This includes the subduction of the proto-South China Sea beneath what is now the northwestern margin of Sabah, which terminated ~21 Ma; a postulated later phase of northward subduction of the Celebes Sea plate, which terminated ~9 Ma; extension in central Sabah ~9-10Ma; rapid emplacement and exhumation of a granite intrusion ~7Ma, which forms Mt Kinabalu today, and the development of a fold and thrust belt offshore during the last 5 Myr. While these events have all left an imprint in the rock record at the surface, it has not been possible, until recently, to investigate deeper lithospheric processes that have shaped Sabah. However, the installation of 46 broadband seismometers with an ~40 km station spacing as part of the northern Borneo Orogeny Seismic Survey (nBOSS) between 2018 and 2020, means that for the first time it is now possible to constrain the architecture of the crust and uppermost mantle beneath Sabah. Here we present the results of receiver function analysis using two years of passive seismic data recorded by the nBOSS network, and an additional 24 Malaysian Metrological Service broadband seismometers also located in Sabah. We calculate P-wave receiver functions and use these in a joint inversion with surface wave data to obtain shear velocity models of crustal structure. We find that the crustal thickness in northern Borneo varies between 22 and 60 km. The thickest crust occurs beneath the Crocker Range, while the thinnest crust is found in central Sabah, potentially recording Miocene extension. The crust beneath the 4095m high Mt Kinabalu is also comparatively thin. Distinct, low velocity, dipping anomalies identified in our shear wave velocity models provide clear evidence for underthrusting of Dangerous Grounds continental crust following subduction and collision.



Earth Sciences, Geophysics and Seismology


South East Asia, Crustal structure, Crustal imaging, Borneo, Sabah, subduction, Collision, joint inversion, Moho, Crustal Thickness, receiver functions


Published: 2023-09-04 04:44

Last Updated: 2023-09-04 11:44


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Conflict of interest statement:

Data Availability (Reason not available):
Part of the nBOSS dataset is accessible through the IRIS Data Management service ( Data from the remaining nBOSS stations will be available from February 2024. Data from the Malaysian national seismic network ( are restricted but may be obtained by contacting the Malaysian Meteorological Department. The exceptions to this are stations KKM and LDM which are also available through the IRIS Data Management service.

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.