Structural evolution of sheath folds: a case study from Cap de Creus

G. I. Alsop, J. Carreras

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58 Citations (Scopus)


It has long been recognised that within zones of intense non-coaxial deformation, fold hinges may rotate progressively towards the transport direction ultimately resulting in highly curvilinear sheath folds. However, there is a surprising lack of detailed and systematic field analysis of such “evolving” sheath folds. This case study therefore focuses on the sequential development of cm-scale curvilinear folds in the greenschist-facies El Llimac shear zone, Cap de Creus, Spain. This simple shear-dominated dextral shear zone displays superb three dimensional exposures of sheath folds defined by mylonitic quartz bands within phyllonite. Increasing amounts of fold hinge curvature (δ) are marked by hinge segments rotating into sub-parallelism with the mineral lineation (Lm), whilst the acute angle between the axial-planar hinge girdle and foliation (ω) also displays a sequential reduction. Although Lm bisects the noses of sheath folds, it is also clearly folded and wrapped-around the sheath hinges. Lm typically preserves a larger angle (θ) with the fold hinge on the lower limb (L) compared to the upper (U) limb (θL > θU), suggesting that Lm failed to achieve a steady orientation on the lower limb. Adjacent sheath fold hinges forming fold pairs may display the same sense of hinge arcing to define synthetic curvature, or alternatively opposing directions of antithetic curvature. Such patterns reflect original buckle fold geometries coupled with the direction of shearing. The ratio of long/short fold limbs decreases with increasing hinge curvilinearity, indicating sheath folds developed via stretching of the short limb, rather than migrating or rolling hinge models. This study unequivocally demonstrates that both hinges of fold pairs become curvilinear with sheaths closing in the transport direction recording greater hinge-line curvilinearity compared to adjacent return hinges. This may provide a useful guide to bulk shear sense.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1915-1930
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Issue number12
Early online date2 Oct 2007
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • shear zones
  • sheath folds
  • fold evolution
  • Cap de Creus


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