Identifying mantle lithosphere inheritance in controlling intraplate orogenesis

Philip J. Heron*, Russell N. Pysklywec, Randell Stephenson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
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Crustal inheritance is often considered important in the tectonic evolution of the Wilson Cycle. However, the role of the mantle lithosphere is usually overlooked due to its difficulty to image and uncertainty in rheological makeup. Recently, increased resolution in lithosphere imaging has shown potential scarring in continental mantle lithosphere to be ubiquitous. In our study, we analyze intraplate deformation driven by mantle lithosphere heterogeneities from ancient Wilson Cycle processes and compare this to crustal inheritance deformation. We present 2-D numerical experiments of continental convergence to generate intraplate deformation, exploring the limits of continental rheology to understand the dominant lithosphere layer across a broad range of geological settings. By implementing a “jelly sandwich” rheology, common in stable continental lithosphere, we find that during compression the strength of the mantle lithosphere is integral in generating deformation from a structural anomaly. We posit that if the continental mantle is the strongest layer within the lithosphere, then such inheritance may have important implications for the Wilson Cycle. Furthermore, our models show that deformation driven by mantle lithosphere scarring can produce tectonic patterns related to intraplate orogenesis originating from crustal sources, highlighting the need for a more formal discussion of the role of the mantle lithosphere in plate tectonics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6966-6987
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number9
Early online date30 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

We thank the reviewers and the Associate Editor for their thoughtful consideration of this manuscript. R.N.P. and P.J.H. are grateful for funding from an NSERC Discovery Grant. Computations were performed on the GPC supercomputer at the SciNet HPC Consortium [Loken et al., 2010]. SciNet is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation under the auspices of Compute Canada, the Government of Ontario, Ontario Research Fund-Research Excellence, and the University of Toronto. Data from this study can be made available from P.J.H. Numerical calculations were done using a modified version of the SOPALE (2000) software. The SOPALE modeling code was originally developed by Philippe Fullsack at Dalhousie University with Chris Beaumont and his Geodynamics group. This paper is part of UNESCO IGCP Project 648: Supercontinent Cycles and Global Geodynamics.


  • continental rheology
  • inherited structures
  • intraplate orogenesis
  • lithosphere scars
  • mantle lithosphere
  • plate tectonics


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