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Microplate tectonics: new insights from micro-blocks in the global oceans, continental margins and deep mantle

Li, Sanzhong, Suo, Yanhui, Li, Xiyao, Liu, Bo, Dai, Liming, Wang, Guangzeng, Zhou, Jie, Li, Yang, Liu, Yiming, Cao, Xianzhi, Somerville, I., Mu, Dunling, Zhao, Shujuan, Liu, Jinping, Meng, Fan, Zhen, Libing, Zhao, Lintao, Zhu, Junjiang, Yu, Shengyao, Liu, Yongjiang, Zhang, Guowei
Earth-science reviews 2018 v.185 pp. 1029-1064
Precambrian time, basins, deformation, fossils, oceans, tectonics
Any plate has a growth process from small to large. The micro-blocks or micro-plates are sometimes the precursors of large plates. The origin, growth, aborting, extinction and residual process of micro-blocks are of great significance for the study of plate tectonics and pre-plate tectonics. The micro-block can be divided into continental, oceanic and mantle micro-blocks according to their compositions. In this paper, the micro-blocks in the global oceans have been summarized according to the following five environments: mid-ocean ridge system, subduction system, transform fault system, deep-sea intraplate system and extension-rift system. We first propose a genetic classification of micro-blocks comprising: detachment-derived, rifting-derived, transform-derived, propagation-derived, ridge jumping-derived, subduction-derived, accretion-derived, collision-derived and delamination-derived micro-blocks. The different types of micro-block boundaries such as active or fossil detachment fault, subduction zone, mid-ocean ridge, transform fault, fracture zone, transfer fault, accommodation zone, lithosphere-scale strike-slip fault, pseudofault, intra-oceanic convergent zone, overlapping spreading centre, non-transform offset, rheological crustal or mantle discontinuity, are systematically discussed for different micro-blocks. Thus, the number of triple junctions will be more than the 16 in the traditional Plate Tectonic Theory. A stability analysis of these triple junctions is the key to understanding the causes of micro-blocks. However, the micro-block has no ultimate cause, so it is unnecessary to pursue one ultimate cause or initiation of plate tectonics. These micro-blocks within oceanic basins, along oceanic margins or within the deep mantle, can not only be used to develop deep ocean fine structural analysis and plate tectonic reconstruction, but also to explain the causes of micro-blocks in some orogens. This will enrich the research of more detailed pre-orogenic or syn-orogenic evolution of orogenic belts, and even extend to the study of early Precambrian pre-plate tectonic mechanisms. The micro-block can be a transition among microplate, plate and terrane under a plate tectonic regime. It can also be formed in inter-sphere tectonic processes. It helps better our understanding of regimes of cratonic basin formation and intra-continental deformation which are the difficulties faced by the Plate Tectonics Theory. We speculate that the Micro-block Tectonics Theory is a unified tectonic theory of cross-layer, cross-phase, cross-space-time scale and cross-planet.