Extensional collapse in the Neoproterozoic Araçuaí orogen, eastern Brazil: A setting for reactivation of asymmetric crenulation cleavage

Stephen Marshak, Fernando F. Alkmim, Alan Whittington, Antônio Carlos Pedrosa-Soares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Araçuaí orogen of eastern Brazil is one of many Brasiliano/Pan African orogens formed during the Neoproterozoic assembly of Gondwana. Its western edge, bordering the São Francisco craton, is the Serra do Espinhaço fold-thrust belt, in which top-up-to-the-west (reverse-sense) faults, west-verging folds (F1), and east-dipping spaced to phyllitic cleavage (S1) developed. We have found that the kinematics of deformation changes markedly at the hinterland margin of this fold-thrust belt. Here, beneath a plateau known as the Chapada Acauã, metadiamictite and fine-grained pelitic schist comprise an east-dipping belt that contains an assemblage of structures indicative of top-down-to-the-east (normal-sense) shear. This assemblage includes a cascade of F2 folds that refold F1 folds and verge down the dip of the belt's enveloping surfaces, vertical tension gashes, and top-down-to-the-east rotated clasts. Based on the presence of these structures, we propose that the plateau exposes a regional-scale normal-sense shear zone, here called the Chapada Acauã shear zone (CASZ). Because F2 folds refold F1 folds, normal-sense shear in the CASZ occurred subsequent to initial west-verging thrusting. Considering this timing of motion in the CASZ, we suggest that the zone accommodated displacement of the internal zone of the Araçuaí orogen down, relative to its foreland fold-thrust belt, and thus played a role in extensional collapse of the orogen. The CASZ trends parallel to preserved thrusts to the west, and thus may represent an inverted thrust fault. Notably, throughout the CASZ, S1 schistosity has been overprinted by a pervasive, west-dipping asymmetric crenulation cleavage (S2). The sigmoid shape of S1 surfaces in S2 microlithons require that slip on each S2 surface was top-down-to-the-west. S2 cleavage is axial-planar to the down-dip verging F2 folds. Based on its geometry, we suggest that S2 cleavage initiated either as an antithetic extensional crenulation cleavage during reverse-sense shear, or as a near vertical asymmetric crenulation cleavage formed during east-west shortening of a preexisting east-dipping schistosity. Subsequent normal-sense shear in the CASZ reactivated this cleavage, causing clockwise rotation of S2 domains (as viewed looking along-strike to the north), in a manner similar to that of rotational 'bookshelf faults'. Such movement could have accommodated concomitant vertical flattening of the CASZ during extensional collapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-147
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Araçuaí orogen
  • Brasiliano orogeny
  • Crenulation cleavage
  • Crustal extension
  • Espinhaço fold-thrust belt
  • Extensional crenulation cleavage
  • Macaúbas basin
  • Neoproterozoic
  • Orogenic collapse
  • Shear zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


Dive into the research topics of 'Extensional collapse in the Neoproterozoic Araçuaí orogen, eastern Brazil: A setting for reactivation of asymmetric crenulation cleavage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this