Neotethyan intraoceanic microplate rotation and variations in spreading axis orientation: Palaeomagnetic evidence from the Hatay ophiolite (southern Turkey)

J. Inwood, A. Morris, M. W. Anderson, Alastair Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insights into tectonic processes operating in ancient ocean basins are provided by analyses of fragments of oceanic lithosphere preserved as ophiolites during collisional orogenesis. Here we present a palaeomagnetic analysis of the Upper Cretaceous Hatay (Kizil Daǧ) ophiolite of Turkey that provides evidence for intraoceanic microplate rotation and variations in ridge axis orientation in a Neotethyan ocean basin. Magnetizations at 46 sites are shown to be pre-deformational in origin and rotated from the relevant reference direction. A net tectonic rotation approach to the analysis of the data provides information on permissible net rotation poles and angles and allows uncertainties in input vectors to be considered. Results demonstrate that all levels of the ophiolite have been rotated anticlockwise by angles in excess of 90° around steeply inclined axes. The Hatay ophiolite formed in the same supra-subduction zone spreading system as the Troodos ophiolite (Cyprus), which is known to have rotated 90° anticlockwise in an intraoceanic setting in the Late Cretaceous to Early Eocene. By considering our results in the context of the known timing of the Troodos rotation, we infer that 50-60° of rotation of the Hatay ophiolite took place as part of an areally extensive "Troodos microplate". This phase of rotation was triggered by initial impingement of the Arabian continental margin with the Neotethyan subduction trench, consistent with models for modern day oceanic microplate rotation in complex convergent plate boundaries. The Hatay ophiolite then became detached from the actively rotating microplate and was emplaced onto the Arabian margin in the Maastrichtian, undergoing a further 30-40° of anticlockwise rotation during thrusting. Back-stripping of rotations allows correction of the Hatay sheeted dykes to their initial orientations. The restored dyke trend of 020° differs from that inferred previously for the Troodos sheeted dyke complex, demonstrating a primary variation in orientation of Neotethyan spreading axes. Such variability is commonly observed in modern spreading systems in marginal basins; these may act as analogues for the supra-subduction zone spreading inferred for many ophiolites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-117
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2009


  • ophiolite
  • palaeomagnetism
  • rotation
  • tectonic
  • Neotethys
  • Turkey


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