Suture (geology)

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In structural geology, a suture is a major fault zone through an orogen or mountain range. Sutures separate terranes, tectonic units that have different plate tectonic, metamorphic and paleogeographic histories. The term is borrowed from surgery where it describes the sewing together of two pieces of tissue.


In plate tectonics, sutures are seen as the remains of subduction zones, and the terranes that constitute them are interpreted as fragments of different palaeocontinents or tectonic plates.

Outcropping sutures can vary in width from a few hundred meters to a couple of kilometers. They can be networks of mylonitic shear zones or brittle fault zones, but usually both. Sutures are usually associated with igneous intrusions and tectonic lenses of all kinds of lithologies from plutonic rocks to ophiolitic fragments.

An example from Great Britain is the Iapetus Suture which, though now concealed beneath younger rocks, has been determined by geophysical means to run along a line roughly parallel with the English-Scottish border and represents the join between the former continent of Laurentia to the north and the former micro-continent of Avalonia to the south. It is in fact...
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