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Strain localization across the brittle-ductile transition is a fundamental process in accommodating tectonic movement in the mid-crust. The tectonically active Cordillera Blanca shear zone (CBSZ), a ~200-km-long normal-sense shear zone situated within the footwall of a discrete syn-convergent extensional fault in the Peruvian Andes, is an excellent field laboratory to explore this transition. Field and microscopic observations indicate consistent top-down-to-the-southwest sense of shear and a sequence of tectonites ranging from undeformed granodiorite through mylonite and ultimately fault breccia along the detachment.

Using microstructural analysis, two-feldspar and Ti-in-quartz (TitaniQ) thermometry, recrystallized quartz paleopiezometry, and analysis of quartz crystallographic preferred orientations, we evaluate the deformation conditions and mechanisms in quartz and feldspar across the CBSZ. Deformation temperatures derived from asymmetric strain-induced myrmekite in a subset of tectonite samples are 410 ± 30 to 470 ± 36 °C, consistent with TitaniQ temperatures of 450 ± 60 to 490 ± 33 °C and temperatures >400 °C estimated from microstructural criteria. Brittle fabrics overprint ductile fabrics within ~150 m of the detachment that indicate that deformation continued to lower-temperature (~280–400 °C) and/or higher-strain-rate conditions prior to the onset of pervasive brittle deformation. Initial deformation occurred via high-temperature fracturing and dissolution-precipitation in feldspar. Continued subsolidus deformation resulted in either layering of mylonites into monophase quartz and fine-grained polyphase domains oriented subparallel to macroscopic foliation or the interconnection of recrystallized quartz networks oriented obliquely to macroscopic foliation. The transition to quartz-controlled rheology occurred at temperatures near ~500 °C and at a differential stress of ~16.5 MPa. Deformation within the CBSZ occurred predominantly above ~400 °C and at stresses up to ~71.4 MPa prior to the onset of brittle deformation.


This article was published openly thanks to the University of Tennessee Open Publishing Support Fund.

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