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Find Your Science at GSA
4 June 2012
GSA Release No. 12-44
Kea Giles
Managing Editor,
GSA Communications

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New in Lithosphere: Mars, Iraq, Canada, and the Spanish Pyrenees

Boulder, Colo., USA – Lithosphere science posted online 4 June 2012 includes a study of the Valles Marineris fault zone, Mars, and asks why such a trough system occurs there, when such structures on Earth are mainly associated with plate tectonics. Other papers discuss landslides in the Pyrenees; first evidence of a "missing" Cretaceous arc assemblage in the Iraqi segment of the Zagros orogenic belt; and new information on the age of the Okanagan Valley shear zone, Canada.

LITHOSPHERE is the newest bimonthly publication of The Geological Society of America, printing in February, April, June, August, and October, and December each year. Abstracts are available at Representatives of the media may obtain complimentary copies of LITHOSPHERE articles by contacting Kea Giles at .

Please discuss articles of interest with the authors before publishing stories on their work, and please make reference to LITHOSPHERE in articles published. Contact Kea Giles for additional information or assistance.

Non-media requests for articles may be directed to GSA Sales and Service, .

Investigating gravitational grabens related to lateral spreading and evaporite dissolution subsidence by means of detailed mapping, trenching, and electrical resistivity tomography (Spanish Pyrenees)
F. Gutierrez et al., University of Zaragoza, Ciencias de la Tierra, Pedro Cerbuna 12, Zaragoza, 50009, Spain. Posted online 4 June 2012; doi: 10.1130/L202.1.

This paper by F. Gutierrez and colleagues documents the largest active landslide in the Pyrenees and illustrates approaches that may be used to differentiate between gravitational faults and tectonic faults capable of producing damaging earthquakes. This is a relevant issue in many countries like the USA, where there are a number of active faults related to interstratal dissolution of evaporites and rock spread (e.g. Colorado, Utah, and Texas).

Recognition of Late Cretaceous Hasanbag ophiolite-arc rocks in the Kurdistan Region of the Iraqi Zagros suture zone: A missing link in the paleogeography of the closing Neotethys Ocean
S.A. Ali et al., University of Wollongong, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Posted online 4 June 2012; doi: 10.1130/L207.1.

The paper by S.A. Ali of the University of Wollongong and colleagues is (a) innovative because it provides first evidence of a "missing" Cretaceous arc assemblage in the Iraqi segment of the Zagros orogenic belt; (b) provocative because it challenges current ideas concerning Zagros evolution and anatomy; and (c) timely because there is much current literature on the neighboring Iranian segment of the Zagros orogen, whereas new information from Iraq is lacking.

New constraints on Eocene extension within the Canadian Cordillera and identification of Phanerozoic protoliths for footwall gneisses of the Okanagan Valley shear zone
S.R. Brown et al., University of California Santa Barbara, Earth Research Institute, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA. Posted online 4 June 2012; doi: 10.1130/L199.1.

The Okanagan Valley shear zone is a major extensional structure in the southern Canadian Cordillera that accommodated exhumation of the Shuswap metamorphic complex in the Eocene. New U/Pb dating of the rocks within the shear zone, including the Okanagan gneiss, reveals that exhumation occurred between 56 and 49 million years ago, concurrent with deformation and in situ melting; rocks were exhumed from about 20 km deep during this time, suggesting lateral stretching (east to west) of the crust of up to about 90 km. These new dates reveal that the Okanagan gneiss protolith (i.e. the rocks that were metamorphosed to form the gneiss) were sedimentary rocks intruded by igneous rocks around 160 Ma; this is contrary to earlier studies that suggested that the Okanagan gneiss was an exposed outlier of Proterozoic North American basement. This study by S.R. Brown and colleagues confirms the presence of a major Cordilleran structure and accurately establishes its age and magnitude.

Structural analysis of the Valles Marineris fault zone: Possible evidence for large-scale strike-slip faulting on Mars
An Yin, UCLA, Earth & Space Sciences, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1567, USA. Posted online 4 June 2012; doi: 10.1130/L192.1.

Despite four decades of research, the origin of the longest known trough system in the solar system, Valles Marineris on Mars, remains uncertain. Its formation mechanism has been variably related to rifting, strike-slip faulting, and subsurface mass removal. This study by UCLA scientist An Yin focuses on the structural geology of Ius and Coprates Chasmata using THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System), Context Camera (CTX), and HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) images. The main result of the work is that the troughs and their plateau margins have experienced left-slip transtensional deformation. The discovery of a large-scale (>2000 km in length and >100 km in slip) and rather narrow (<50 km in width) strike-slip fault zone by this study begs the question of why such a structure, typically associated with plate tectonics on Earth, has developed on Mars.