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TECTONICS, VOL. 23, TC3002, doi:10.

1029/2003TC001526, 2004

Shear zones and magma ascent: A model based

on a review of the Tertiary magmatism in the Alps
C. L. Rosenberg
Institut für Geologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Received 25 March 2003; revised 15 October 2003; accepted 13 January 2004; published 8 May 2004.

[1] The Alpine Oligocene plutons are spatially and compressive settings postulated in the past decade [e.g., De
temporally associated with the activity of the Saint Blanquat et al., 1998]. With few exceptions [Paterson
Periadriatic Fault System (PFS), an orogen-parallel, and Schmidt, 1999; Schmidt and Paterson, 2000], structural
crustal-scale transpressive mylonitic belt. Excellent investigations concluded that faults are closely related to
three-dimensional exposure, combined with a wealth plutons in space and time [e.g., Pitcher, 1974; Pitcher and
Bussell, 1977; Nicolas et al., 1977; Strong and Hanmer,
of structural, seismic, petrological, geochronological, 1981; Hutton, 1982; Hollister and Crawford, 1986] in any
geochemical, and paleomagnetic data collected over type of tectonic setting, either strike-slip [Hutton, 1982],
the last decades help to constrain the relationships extensional [Hutton, 1988] or compressive [Davidson et al.,
between deformation, ascent, and emplacement of the 1992; D’Lemos et al., 1992; McCaffrey, 1992].
plutons. Magmas were channeled from the base of the [3] Different causes were inferred to explain the above
thickened continental crust into the narrow mylonitic spatial and temporal coexistence. Interpretations focusing on
belt of the Periadriatic Fault System, which was used final emplacement of plutons suggested that (1) the space
as ascent pathway to cover vertical lengths of 20 to needed for the plutons is made by displacement along
40 km. Therefore the linear alignment of the plutons at regional, synmagmatic faults [Hutton, 1982]; (2) the site of
the surface is not the expression of a linear source emplacement is controlled by pre-existing faults [e.g., Pitcher
region at depth. Ascent of the melts is controlled by and Bussell, 1977]; (3) shortening in the presence of mag-
matic bodies induces faults that accommodate further space
the mylonitic foliation of the PFS, which forms the for final emplacement [Benn et al., 1998]; (4) faults limit the
only steep anisotropy, continuously traversing the lateral expansion of intrusions, leading to fault-bounded
entire Alpine crust. In contrast, the flow direction plutons [Roman-Berdiel et al., 1997]. Interpretations
is not influenced by the specific kinematics of the concerned with the ascent of magma suggested that ascent
faults. Final emplacement of the plutons occurred takes place (1) along pre-existing faults [e.g., Pitcher and
by extrusion from the Periadriatic Fault System Bussell, 1977]; or (2) along active fault planes or shear zones
into the adjacent country rocks. The transition from [e.g., Hollister and Crawford, 1986; D’Lemos et al., 1992;
ascent to final emplacement is favored by partitioning Ingram and Hutton, 1994; Rosenberg et al., 1995; Handy et
of transpressive deformation. INDEX TERMS: 8010 al., 2001; Galland et al., 2003]. A third group of interpreta-
Structural Geology: Fractures and faults; 8035 Structural tions discussed the spatial coincidence of plutons and faults in
Geology: Pluton emplacement; 8102 Tectonophysics: Continental terms of melt generation along the fault planes, by either
contractional orogenic belts; 8110 Tectonophysics: Continental (1) rapid pressure reduction along the deeper parts of fault
tectonics—general (0905); 8434 Volcanology: Magma migration; planes [Pitcher and Bussell, 1977; Pitcher, 1979]; (2) en-
KEYWORDS: plutons, emplacement, ascent, shear zones, Alpine hanced fluid migration along fault planes, hence lowering the
magmatism, Alpine tectonics. Citation: Rosenberg, C. L. (2004), solidus [Strong and Hanmer, 1981; Reavy, 1989]; or, (3) melt
Shear zones and magma ascent: A model based on a review of the generation by shear heating along mylonitic zones [Strong
Tertiary magmatism in the Alps, Tectonics, 23, TC3002, and Hanmer, 1981; Nabelek et al., 2001]. Feedback loop
doi:10.1029/2003TC001526. processes involving the different mechanisms described
above, were also proposed [Vauchez et al., 1997; Brown
and Solar, 1998a; Kisters et al., 1998]. These models
considered that strain localizes where melt is present,
1. Introduction enhancing in turn further melt flow into the deforming region.
[2] Tectonic controls on the ascent and emplacement of [4] The present review shows that spatial, temporal and
magmas have been debated by field geologists since the causal relationships between magmatism and deformation
beginning of the past century. Cloos [1923] suggested that do exist in the Alps. This orogen is particularly suited for
granitic magmas of Variscan age in the Bayerische Wald the study of such relationships because the excellent three-
(Germany) were squeezed upward by regional shortening. dimensional (3-D) exposures of coeval and cogenetic
This interpretation anticipated models of intrusion within plutons exhumed from different crustal levels, allow the
construction of a synthetic cross section, showing the
Copyright 2004 by the American Geophysical Union. distribution of plutons and faults down to 30 km depth. This
0278-7407/04/2003TC001526$12.00 cross section and the numerous geochronological, structural,

TC3002 1 of 21

Figure 1

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Figure 1. (continued)
petrological and seismic investigations of the past decades, together, accommodating dextral transpression [Schmid et
form the basis for a discussion aimed at testing the applica- al., 1989]. The intensity of north-side up movements
bility of current ascent and emplacement models to nature. (Figure 1a) varied along the strike of the chain, from a
maximum of 20 km in the central Alps [Trümpy, 1980] to
nearly zero in the easternmost part of the chain. Where
2. Periadriatic Fault System deeper crustal levels are exposed, e.g., in the central Alps,
[5] The Periadriatic Fault System (PFS) is the most the PFS forms a mylonitic belt of several kilometers in
important Tertiary structure of the Alps, striking for more width (>5 km in the central Lepontine, including the
than 700 km along the entire length of the chain (Figure 1a). ‘‘Southern Steep Belt’’ [Milnes, 1974]), whereas at higher
Overprinting relationships between plutons aligned along crustal levels, e.g., in the Eastern Alps, the PFS is marked
the PFS and mylonites formed within the PFS prove that by cataclasites of a few tens of meters width [Mancktelow et
deformation was active during and after magma crystalliza- al., 2001]. The extent of dextral displacements is still a
tion, i.e., between 34 Ma and 28 Ma [Rosenberg et al., matter of debate. A total offset of up to 300 km was
1995]. Radiometric dating of synkinematically grown min- estimated from paleogeographic reconstructions [Laubscher,
erals of the PFS mylonites confirmed these ages of activity 1971]. Schmid et al. [1996a] inferred 100 km of dextral
[Müller et al., 2000, 2001]. displacement from the Oligocene to the present, while
[6] The PFS consists of a set of kinematically linked Müller et al. [2001] argued for a post-Oligocene displace-
large-scale faults, displaying different kinematics, but all ment of less than 30 km.

Figure 1. Tectonic map and cross section of the Alps. (a) Simplified tectonic map of the Alps, with enlargements of some
segments of the PFS showing the spatial distribution of the Oligo-Miocene dikes and of the Periadriatic plutons. Only the
major faults of Tertiary age are shown. Redrawn after Bigi et al. [1990]. Faults are labeled as follows: CL, Canavese Line;
DAV, DAV Line; GL, Giudicarie Line; GTL, Gailtal Line; IL, Insubric Line; LT, Lavantal Line; PL, Pustertal Line. Full
circles indicate dikes. The size of the dikes is exaggerated by several orders of magnitude. Plutons are labeled as follows: A,
Adamello; An, andesites of the Canavese Line; B, Bergell; Bi, Biella; K, Karawanken; L, Lesachtal body; M, Miagliano
pluton; P, Pohorje; R, Rieserferner; Re, Rensen; T, Traversella; TL, tonalitic lamellae. Pink shading indicates areas with
exposed Tertiary dikes. The x-x0 is the trace of cross section of Figure 1b. Note that only parts of the dikes are dated. Most of
them are inferred to be Oligocene on the basis of petrographic analogy with the dated ones and of crosscutting relationships
with their country rocks. (b) Cross section of the central Alps, based on the interpretation of geologic and seismic data.
Simplified after Schmid et al. [1996a]. Arrowheads mark the mylonitic belt of the PFS, which is the only steep structure
crosscutting the entire crust. The northern boundary of the lower European crust is inferred to be aligned to the PFS at the
time of intrusion of the Periadriatic plutons [Schmid et al., 1996a]. See color version of this figure at back of this issue.

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[7] The PFS marks the boundary between the Southern

Alpine indentor [Ratschbacher et al., 1991] and the Austro-
alpine Units (Figures 1a and 1b). In the central Alps, the
PFS fits with the commonly observed steep zone of back-
thrusting, bounding the retrowedge of bivergent orogens
[Beaumont et al., 1994] (Figure 1b). In contrast, in the
Eastern Alps, no significant backthrust along the PFS is
observed and its kinematic role is primarily to accommodate
eastward extrusion of the orogenic wedge [Ratschbacher et
al., 1991].
[8] The NNE-SSW oriented Giudicarie Line, east of the
Adamello batholith (Figure 1a) constitutes a major trunca-
tion of the PFS. It is a NW dipping, transpressive sinistral
fault [Werling, 1992; Prosser, 1998; Viola et al., 2001],
whose age is inferred to be Miocene, or Oligo-Miocene
[Müller et al., 2001; Viola et al., 2001]. The apparent left-
lateral displacement of the Giudicarie Line in map view is
70 km. However, based on different estimates of shortening
in the Southern Alpine thrust and fold belt, sinistral dis-
placements of 87 km [Schönborn, 1992] or 30 km [Picotti et
al., 1995] were inferred.
Figure 2. Age of the Periadriatic plutons, modified and
updated after von Blanckenburg and Davies [1995]. Data set
3. Tertiary Magmatism in the Alps based on Barth et al. [1989], Brügel et al. [2000], Dal Piaz
et al. [1988], Del Moro et al. [1983b], Deutsch [1984], Elias
[9] All Tertiary plutons in the Alps are found in the [1998], Giger and Hurford [1989], Hansmann and Oberli
vicinity of the PFS [Salomon, 1897; Bögel, 1975; Exner, [1991], Martin et al. [1993, 1996], Müller et al. [2000,
1976; Dal Piaz and Venturelli, 1983; Laubscher, 1983a] 2001], Oberli et al. [2004], Romer et al. [1996], Romer and
(Figure 1a), hence they were termed Periadriatic [Salomon, Siegesmund [2003], Stipp et al. [2004], Villa [1983], Villa
1897]. Laubscher [1983a] suggested that the Periadriatic and von Blanckenburg [1991], and von Blanckenburg
plutons were emplaced during a phase of orogenic extension. [1992].
Structural investigations of several plutons [Mager, 1985;
Martin et al., 1993; Rosenberg et al., 1995; Steenken et al.,
2000; Wagner, 2004] showed, however, that syntectonic vecting asthenosphere would dilute and homogenize any
ascent and emplacement occurred in a transpressive setting. enrichment. Therefore melting took place in the lithospheric
[10] Magmatism took place during continental collision mantle, and not in the asthenosphere [von Blanckenburg
and pluton ages vary between 42 Ma and 28 Ma (Figure 2). and Davies, 1995]. The latter study inferred that two
However, except for the southern part of the Adamello tectonic scenarios could explain melting restricted to the
batholith all Periadriatic plutons fall in the short time lithospheric mantle: (1) detachment of the thermal boundary
interval 28– 34 Ma (Figure 2), which is coeval with back- layer [Houseman et al., 1981] or (2) slab breakoff. The
thrusting and dextral shearing along the PFS. latter model was favored, because it explains the alignment
[11] The Periadriatic plutons consist of calcalkaline I-type of the plutons in map view, inferred to reflect breakoff
tonalites and to a minor extent granodiorites. Gabbros, propagation along the axis of the Alpine chain.
diorites and granites constitute a small fraction of most [13] A major implication of these geochemical data in
plutons. Mafic enclaves and basic synplutonic dikes are terms of ascent and emplacement of the magmas is that the
widespread in most plutons. source region of the Periadriatic plutons is constrained to be
[12] The 143Nd/144Nd and 87Sr/86Sr of all investigated at the base of the thickened continental crust, i.e., at a depth
intrusions (Bergell, Adamello, Karawanken, Pohorje) show of 40 to 50 km. These values are consistent with geo-
a typical mixing array between crustal and mantle isotopic barometric data constraining crystallization depths of the
values [von Blanckenburg and Davies, 1995; Pamic and early crystallized phases of the Adamello suite [Ulmer et al.,
Palinkas, 2000]. Mixing of basaltic partial melts with 1983]. Models of ascent and emplacement of the Periadri-
partially melted mafic lower crust, followed by fractional atic plutons must therefore consider melt transport through
crystallization, gave rise to the dioritic, tonalitic, granodio- the entire continental crust.
ritic and granitic magmas that formed the Periadriatic
plutons [e.g., Thompson et al., 2002]. The geochemistry 4. Geometry and Distribution of the
of ultrapotassic dikes shows an extreme enrichment in Cr,
Ni, Sr, and Nd isotopes, attributed to be a primary feature of
Periadriatic Plutons in Map View
the mantle source [von Blanckenburg et al., 1998]. Such an [14] All Periadriatic plutons, except the southern part of
enrichment is ascribed to the non-convecting mechanical the Adamello batholith, have one margin located at a distance
boundary layer of the lithospheric mantle, since the con- less than 4 km from a segment of the PFS and most of them

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are directly in contact with the mylonites or cataclasites of the [18] For the sake of clarity, the term ascent, is used to
PFS (Figure 1a). The enlargements of Figure 1a show that describe magma flow from the source region to the crustal
there is a large number of small plutons that are located level of final crystallization, while final emplacement is
exactly along the PFS. None of the plutons is ever transected used to describe the processes, acting at the depth of final
by the PFS, which encloses the roots and tails of the plutons, crystallization, leading to the specific shape of the pluton
but not their main bodies (Figure 1a). Except for the [Clemens et al., 1997]. Whether these processes are phys-
Adamello batholith and the small Miagliano stock all plutons ically distinct will be discussed in the concluding section of
outcrop to the north (or northwest) of the PFS (Figure 1a). this contribution.
[15] The aspect ratios of the plutons in map view
decrease with increasing distance to the PFS (Figure 3a). 5.1. Biella Pluton
Post-intrusive shearing did increase these aspect ratios to [19] The Biella pluton (Figure 1a) is concentrically zoned
some extent, as illustrated by the Bergell pluton, whose [Cesana et al., 1976] and consists of a monzosyenite at its
tonalitic tail was reduced in width by more than half during rim, grading into syenite, monzogranite and finally granite
synintrusive to post-intrusive deformation [Berger et al., at its core [Bigioggero et al., 1994]. The pluton is located
1996]. These aspect ratios measured in map view are 1 km away from the Canavese Line (Figure 1a), the
probably underestimated since the inferred intrusion direc- westernmost branch of the PFS. The intrusion level is
tion of the magmas had a strong vertical component. poorly constrained, but inferred to be shallow, nearly sub-
Assuming that the latter underestimation counterbalances volcanic [Bigioggero and Tunesi, 1988] on the base of the
the overestimation due to post-tectonic shearing Figure 3 fine-grained and porphyritic texture formed at the pluton’s
roughly reflects the primary intrusive geometries. These rim, and of the low Al content of magmatic amphiboles
geometries indicate that all plutons with axial ratios larger [Bigioggero et al., 1994]. A crystallization depth of <5 km
than 4,5 are directly in contact and parallel to the PFS is likely.
(Figure 3a), both in map view and cross section. These [20] The gentle outward dips of the northwestern and
bodies are steep to subvertical (Figure 3b). In contrast, with southwestern contacts suggest that parts of the roof are
few exceptions, plutons outcropping more distant from the exposed. The concentric contacts between the different
PFS have aspect ratios 4 and are not parallel to the PFS in intrusive lithologies are often subparallel to the margin
cross section. Although their long axis may strike parallel (roof), suggesting a 3-D oignon-like structure with slight
to the PFS, these magmatic bodies are gently dipping updoming of a layered and gently inclined intrusive suite.
(Figures 3c and 3d), as observed in the roof of the Biella By contrast, the eastern margin is steep and sub-parallel to
pluton, in the main bodies of the Bergell [Davidson et al., the PFS. In this area, magnetic foliations, inferred to reflect
1996], Rieserferner [Wagner, 2004] and Pohorje [Faninger, magmatic foliations are also sub-parallel to the PFS
1976; Exner, 1976] plutons. [Hrouda and Lanza, 1989]). Evidence for stoping is rare
[16] The steep dip of plutons within the PFS and the more and no ductile deformation of the country rocks is observed
gentle dip further away from the PFS is not merely the result [Bigioggero et al., 1994].
of post-intrusive overprint of the plutons by the PFS, but
represents the primary intrusive geometry. This conclusion is 5.2. Bergell Pluton
supported by the preservation of subvertical magmatic folia-
tions adjacent to the fault planes of the PFS [Martin et al., [21] The main body of the Bergell pluton is nearly
1993; Rosenberg et al., 1995; Berger et al., 1996; Wagner, concentrically zoned, with tonalite at the rim, granodiorite
2004], and of gently dipping magmatic foliations in the in the core, and a transitional zone in between [Moticska,
intrusive bodies that are more distant from the PFS 1970]. Post-intrusive tilting and erosion of the Bergell
[Davidson et al., 1996; Wagner, 2004]. Note that Figure 3a resulted in the present-day exposure of a 12 km deep
does not show a trend of progressively decreasing axial ratios crustal section between the eastern and western ends of
away from the PFS. Rather, there are two distinct popula- the pluton (Figures 4a and 4b), as supported by the
tions, one characterized by steep elongate sheets along the following observations: All structures plunge to the east
PFS, and a second one consisting of more circular and gently [Cornelius, 1915; Staub, 1918; Trommsdorff and Nievergelt,
dipping bodies at distances of >1 km from the PFS. This 1983; Rosenberg et al., 1995; Schmid et al., 1996b]; petro-
observation is consistent with the rapid transition from the logic data indicate a westward, post-intrusive pressure
steeply dipping sheets along the PFS to the gently dipping increase of 3 – 4 kbar [Reusser, 1987; Davidson et al.,
circular bodies away from it, and it is presently exposed 1996] and a westward temperature increase [Rosenberg
in the Bergell, Rieserferner and Karawanken plutons. and Stünitz, 2003]; geochronologic data show progressively
younger ages from east to west [Villa and von Blanckenburg,
1991], and finally, paleomagnetic data, suggest west-side-up
5. Geometry, Ascent, and Emplacement tilting around a N-S striking axis [Rosenberg and Heller,
of the Largest Periadriatic Plutons 1997]. Moreover, 3 km of relief through the pluton, allow
the reconstruction of the three-dimensional shape of the
[17] In the following the structures, geometries and intrusive body (Figure 4b).
emplacement mechanisms of the largest Periadriatic plutons [22] The floor of the Bergell’s main body is exposed over
are reviewed. The petrology and geochemistry of these more than 30 km along the western contact (Figure 4b), and
magmas was reviewed by von Blanckenburg et al. [1998]. within a tectonic window in the central part of the pluton.

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Figure 3. Geometry and orientation of the Periadriatic plutons. (a) Aspect ratios of plutons versus
distance to PFS. Open squares indicate steep sheets, subparallel to the PFS. Solid squares indicate gently
inclined plutons and main bodies of plutons. Labels are as follows: Bi, Biella; Po, Pohorje pluton; Be,
main body of the Bergell; Ri, main body of the Rieserferner. (b) Steeply, north dipping foliation of the
tonalitic tail of the Bergell pluton. This tonalitic sheet and its foliation are parallel to the mylonites of the
PFS. (c) Gently dipping floor of the Bergell pluton; Val Codera (Italy). Photo, C. Davidson. (d) Gently
dipping roof of the Rieserferner pluton; Geltal (Italy). See color version of this figure at back of this issue.

This contact is everywhere concordant with a high-temper- tonalite, sub-parallel to the PFS. The tonalitic tail belongs to
ature, synmigmatitic shear zone, which follows a previous the Periadriatic mylonite zone. This tabular body is consid-
nappe boundary [Diethelm, 1989; Davidson et al., 1996]. ered to represent the feeder of the pluton based on the
The three major lithological units of the pluton are parallel following observations: (1) magmatic foliations and linea-
to its floor, suggesting that magmatic flow at the emplace- tions are steep [Berger et al., 1996], in contrast to the rest of
ment level was parallel to the gently inclined country rocks. the pluton; (2) the orientation of the tonalitic tail itself is
The uppermost part of the exposed pluton (its ‘‘side’’) was steep; (3) this tonalitic tail is the deepest portion of the
intruded immediately below the base of the Austroalpine intrusion, with crystallization depths ranging from 700 MPa
nappes, whose temperature was less than 300°C at the time in the east to 850 MPa in the west (Figure 4a), whereas the
of emplacement. As a result, the country rocks above the main body of the pluton crystallized at pressures of 450 to
roof of the pluton behaved as a rigid lid [Laubscher, 1983b] 650 Mpa [Davidson et al., 1996]; (4) all magmatic
while the migmatitic floor of the pluton was still highly lithologies forming the Bergell body root steeply into the
ductile. tail of the pluton (Figures 4a and 4b); and (5) the exposed
[23] The southern margin of the pluton, commonly base of the pluton and the overlying contacts separating the
termed the tail, is a 40 km long, steep tabular body of intrusive lithologies are never transected by steep magmatic

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Figure 3. (continued)

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Figure 4. Map, cross section, and structures of the Bergell pluton (modified after Rosenberg et al.
[1995]). (a) Tectonic map of the Bergell pluton and its country rocks. Modified after Rosenberg et al.
[1995]. (b) Cross section through the Bergell pluton. See Figure 4a for trace of the section in map
view. (c) Small-scale magmatic folds at the base of the pluton. (d) Microphotograph of magmatic fold.
The absence of crystal-plastic deformation of the grains indicates folding in the presence of melt.

sheets, implying that the only existing steep conduit is the the base of the pluton and its country rocks were folded,
tonalitic tail. still in the presence of melt, as indicated by crosscutting
[24] After ascent along the transpressive PFS, final relationships between folds and tonalitic veins [Rosenberg
emplacement occurred in two stages. First, the magmas et al., 1995] and by microstructural observations of tight
were emplaced to the north of the PFS, along an active and folds lacking any solid-state overprint [Davidson et al.,
gently inclined nappe contact. During this phase a mag- 1996] (Figures 4c and 4d). The axial planes of these folds
matic foliation formed, parallel to the foliation of the can be traced from the base of the pluton westward, into
underlying country rocks [Davidson et al., 1996]. Second, the underlying country rocks (Figure 4b) for several tens of

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Figure 4. (continued)

kilometers, indicating that the pluton was folded during which is composed of plutons ranging from 42 Ma to
large-scale regional N-S shortening. 28 Ma (Figure 5a) [Del Moro et al., 1983a; Villa, 1983;
[25] At higher structural levels, now represented by the Hansmann and Oberli, 1991; Stipp et al., 2004]. A sequen-
eastern contact, intense E-W horizontal shortening in the tial emplacement history is indicated by the progressive
margin and metamorphic aureole [Conforto-Galli et al., younging of crystallization ages from south to north. This
1988; Berger and Gieré, 1995] resulted in a steep, north- trend is confirmed by crosscutting relationships between
south striking synmagmatic foliation [Berger and Gieré, the plutons [Callegari and Dal Piaz, 1973; Del Moro et
1995], which is perpendicular to the regional structures of al., 1983a] and by the progressive northward increase in
Oligo-Miocene age in the area. This shortening event was Sr/86Sr [Dupuy et al., 1982; Macera et al., 1983] and
18 16
therefore ascribed to final emplacement of the pluton by O/ O [Del Moro et al., 1983b]. Contact metamorphic
radial expansion or ballooning [Conforto-Galli et al., 1988; assemblages indicate pressures lower than 220 MPa
Berger and Gieré, 1995]. Synmagmatic folding at the base [Riklin, 1983], consistent with clinopyroxene barometry
of the Bergell and ballooning at its top occurred simulta- on gabbroic rock [Nimis and Ulmer, 1998]. In contrast,
neously [Rosenberg et al., 1995]. Al-in-hornblende barometry of tonalites yields 350 MPa
[26] Finally, it is worth noting that the transition from the [Blundy et al., 1993]. On average these values are consis-
vertical feeder to the main body follows not only the general tent with stratigraphic reconstructions, inferring the removal
foliation trend of the enclosing rocks, but also a major of 7 km of sedimentary cover [Assereto and Casati,
rheological boundary within the Alpine crust, namely the 1965].
boundary between the ductile Penninic Units and the rigid [28] The structural relationships between the intrusives
Austroalpine lid (Figures 4a and 4b). and their enclosing rocks vary from one pluton to the next.
Some intrusions are approximately concordant with the
enclosing rocks, compositionally zoned and exhibit concen-
5.3. Adamello Batholith
tric foliation patterns [John and Blundy, 1993; Stipp et al.,
[27] The Adamello batholith is located at the junction 2004] whereas others are strongly discordant and charac-
between the Giudicarie and the Tonale lines (Figure 1). terized by the occurrence of large, up to kilometer-scale
These two segments of the PFS border most of the northern stoped blocks [Salomon, 1908, 1910; Brack, 1983; Brack et
and the eastern margins of the batholith (Figures 1 and 5a), al., 1983; Zattin et al., 1995] (Figure 5b). Space for these

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Figure 5. Map and cross sections of the Adamello batholith. (a) Spatial distribution of Rb/Sr ages of
biotites in the plutons of the Adamello batholith (modified after Del Moro et al. [1983b]). Thin solid lines
separate different lithological intrusive units inferred to have intruded as separate pulses. (b) Fence
sections through the southern Adamello. Open bar at the bottom of Figure 5a indicates the trace of cross
sections. Redrawn from Brack et al. [1983].

plutons was primarily provided by stoping [Brack, 1983], of these mechanisms can be directly attributed to the
whereas space for the former plutons mainly resulted from activity of the PFS.
ballooning [Brack, 1983; John and Blundy, 1993; Stipp et [29] The discordant contact between some parts of the
al., 2004]. In the northern Adamello, magmatic foliations Adamello batholith and the folded sedimentary rocks is
crosscut the contact between different intrusive bodies, considered as evidence for post-tectonic emplacement
suggesting that ballooning affected only the late stage of [Brack, 1981; Del Moro et al., 1983a]. However, structural
the emplacement process [Stipp et al., 2004]. Finally, other and microstructural investigations of the northern Adamello
plutons, like the Val Fredda Complex, show subhorizontal plutons show that emplacement was syntectonic with respect
bedding-parallel sheets [Blundy and Sparks, 1992]. These to the PFS [Werling, 1992; Stipp et al., 2004]. Interestingly,
structures result in a ghost stratigraphy ascribed to a sill-like the southern part of the batholith, which has no spatial
intrusion by fracturing along bedding planes. In summary, relationship to any segment of the PFS, was intruded at
the mechanisms of final emplacement in the Adamello 42 Ma (Figure 5a), i.e., prior to the activity of the PFS.
batholith differ from one batch of magma to another. None In contrast, the northern and northeastern parts of the

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batholith, which are adjacent to the PFS, yield intrusion ages of the pluton, adjacent to the DAV mylonites. As a result of
(34 to 28 Ma) matching the inferred activity of the PFS tilting, the easternmost continuation of the steep zone (the
(Figure 5a). eastern tail of the pluton in map view) represents a higher
[30] In conclusion, the magmas of the southern Adamello crustal level than the main body and is therefore inferred to
Batholith probably ascended independently of the PFS. represent the upper continuation of the Rieserferner feeder,
Unlike the Bergell, the lithologies of the southern Adamello which may have fed other plutons at higher crustal levels
cannot be continuously traced northward into the PFS. It is [Wagner, 2004].
therefore unlikely that magmas ascended along the PFS and
subsequently migrated southward, along a gently inclined 5.5. Karawanken Pluton
path at a depth of 7 km, over a distance of 50 km. [34] This 43-km-long tonalitic intrusion strikes parallel
and immediately north of the PFS (Figure 1a). The rocks
5.4. Rieserferner Pluton exhibit a pervasive foliation parallel to the PFS (Figure 7)
[31] The Rieserferner pluton is located along a sinistral, that first formed in the magmatic state [Graber, 1897;
transpressive branch [Kleinschrodt, 1987] of the PFS Exner, 1976] and was then strongly overprinted by lower
(Figures 1a and 6a), namely, the Defereggen-Antholz-Vals greenschist facies deformation [von Gosen, 1989]. Maxi-
Line (DAV). The pluton consists mainly of a coarse- mum temperatures of  300°C in the enclosing rocks [von
grained, locally garnet-bearing, tonalite and a medium- Gosen, 1989] suggest an emplacement depth of less than
grained tonalite. Post-intrusive east-down tilting of the 10 km, assuming a high thermal gradient. To the south of
pluton [Borsi et al., 1978; Steenken et al., 2002] and the PFS, deformation of Alpine age was only brittle,
2000 m of relief provide an exceptional exposure of the suggesting that the PFS in this area represents a brittle-
roof (Figure 3d), sides and base of the intrusive body, which ductile transition, like in the central Alps.
was emplaced at a depth of 12 to 15 km [Cesare, 1992]. The [35] The pluton geometry consists of a subvertical, fault-
main body of the pluton is 2 km thick, relatively flat-lying parallel tonalitic sheet, locally bending into a gently inclined
and it abruptly becomes steeply dipping, as it gets closer to tabular body further north [Exner, 1976; von Gosen, 1989]
the PFS [Dal Piaz, 1934; Wagner, 2004] (Figure 6b). The (Figure 7). Preserved parts of the roof suggest that the flat-
contact between the two intrusive lithologies is relatively lying body of the intrusion forms a dome within the
flat lying in the main body of the pluton (Figure 6b). enclosing rocks of the Austroalpine [Exner, 1976]. The
[32] As shown by the foliation patterns (Figure 6a) and aspect ratios (X/Z) of magmatic enclaves rarely exceed a
by the contour map of the plutons contact (Figure 6c), the value of 3 [von Gosen, 1989], and as shown by other
roof of the pluton forms two domal structures separated Periadriatic plutons that are less overprinted by solid-state
by a synform (Figure 6c). The north-south striking axial deformation, such aspect ratios may have formed in the
plane of the synform, is perpendicular to all regional suprasolidus state. Therefore the present-day aspect ratio of
structures of the country rocks away from the pluton, the pluton (18:1) may roughly reflect the primary, magmatic
suggesting that the domes result from buoyancy-driven geometry. In a Flinn diagram the enclaves plot in the field of
uplift of this flat-lying magmatic body rather than from apparent flattening, close to the line of plane strain [von
regional deformation [Wagner, 2004]. Although large Gosen, 1989], suggesting that deformation occurred under
parts of the roof are discordant to the foliation in the transpressive conditions [see also Polinski and Eisbacher,
country rocks (Figure 6b), there is no evidence for 1992].
stoping. Stoped blocks are lacking [Steenken et al.,
2000] and rare xenoliths, generally <50 cm long, only 5.6. Tonalitic Lamellae
occur in the very vicinity of the contact. Hence, instead [36] Elongate and extensively deformed [Exner, 1976]
of stoping, the discordant roof contacts are concluded to tonalitic bodies, hundreds of meters wide and several km
result from extensional fracturing along a gently inclined long, termed lamellae [Dal Piaz, 1926] often occur along
plane [Wagner, 2004]. the PFS, from the Adamello Massif to the Slovenian Alps
[33] By contrast, the southern margin of the intrusion is (Figure 1). Their original aspect ratios, varying between
steeply south dipping, parallel to the foliation of the country 5 and 1000 (Figure 3a) may have been significantly
rocks and of the DAV shear zone (Figure 6b). Locally increased by solid-state deformation [e.g., Sassi and
preserved magmatic fabrics oriented parallel to the solid- Zanferrari, 1973]. Petrologic investigations of some of
state mylonites of the DAV shear zone, call for a syntectonic the lamellae exposed along the Giudicarie Line [Martin et
intrusion of the pluton [Mager, 1985; Steenken et al., 2000; al., 1993] suggest that the emplacement depth, although
Wagner, 2004]. Within this steep zone, concentric foliation poorly constrained, is 10 km (300 MPa). Locally
patterns with steeply plunging magmatic lineations are preserved magmatic foliations oriented parallel to the
found locally, from the outcrop scale to that of several Giudicarie fault plane call for synmagmatic shearing along
hundreds of meters (Figure 6a). Such foliation patterns do this fault [Martin et al., 1993] or, alternatively, along the
not occur in other parts of the pluton nor in the enclosing E-W segment of the PFS that was later rotated into the
rocks. The spatial coincidence of these structures with the Giudicarie Line [Werling, 1992]. The geometric and spatial
steeply oriented part of the pluton suggests that this zone relationships of the lamellae with respect to the PFS are
acted as the feeder of the intrusion [Wagner, 2004]. Hence similar to the ‘‘dike-like plutons’’ exposed along the Patos
ascent of the tonalitic magmas occurred in the southern part shear zone of Brazil [Vauchez et al., 1997]. These plutons

11 of 21

Figure 6. Internal structure and geometry of Rieserferner pluton (modified from Wagner [2004]).
(a) Foliation patterns in the pluton, modified from Wagner [2004]. (b) NNW-SSE cross section of the
Rieserferner Pluton, modified from Wagner [2004]. Trace of cross section is shown in the inset map.
(c) Contour lines of the contact of Rieserferner pluton.

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[39] Considering that the Periadriatic plutons have a

common source region, the spatial coincidence of coeval
and cogenetic magmatic sheets with the PFS down to 30 km
depth points to magma ascent of at least 30 km along the
latter lineament. Note that the 30 km depth is constrained by
geobarometric data from the westernmost Bergell tonalitic
tail [Davidson et al., 1996], but field evidence suggests that
the tonalite continues even further at depth. The vertical
extent of the tonalitic tails of the Bergell and Rieserferner
plutons may be even greater than their length in map view
(30 – 40 km). In fact the longest axis of dikes and diapirs is
often parallel to the propagation direction. Hence some of

Figure 7. Cross section of the Karawanken pluton,

redrawn and simplified after von Gosen [1989].

are elongate parallel to the shear zone, but their aspect

ratio is very small compared to that of dikes (103).

5.7. Pohorje Pluton

[37] Although the Pohorje is one of the largest Periadri-
atic bodies, modern structural and geochronological inves-
tigations have not yet been carried out. The Pohorje
intrusion (Figure 1a) is inferred to be a laccolith [Exner,
1976; Pamic and Palinkas, 2000], whose roof and possibly
floor are exposed along the northern and southern contacts,
respectively [Exner, 1976, and references therein]. Al-in-
hornblende barometry points to crystallization pressures of
680 MPa [Altherr et al., 1995]. The western end of the
pluton is intruded by dacitic rocks, whose geochemical
signature is similar to that of the Pohorje tonalites
[Faninger, 1970; Altherr et al., 1995], suggesting a com-
mon magma source. Hence the same feeder zone may have
been active from the time of emplacement at >20 km depth
to that of exhumation close to the present-day surface level.

6. A Synthetic Cross Section

[38] The spatial relationship between the PFS and the
Periadriatic plutons whose geometry and emplacement
depth are known is sketched in a synthetic cross section
perpendicular to the PFS (Figure 8). Although biased by the Figure 8. Synthetic cross section showing the spatial
fact that the plutons are not aligned normal to the PFS in distribution of the Periadriatic plutons with respect to the
map view, the cross sections, the depth and the distance of PFS. Light shading marks the mylonitic belt of the
each pluton from the PFS are not schematic, but constructed PFS. Darker shading depict different magmatic lithologies
on the base of geobarometric and field data. The following within the plutons. Labels are as follows: A, Adamello
conclusions can be drawn from Figure 8: (1) Steep mag- batholith; B, Bergell pluton; Bi, Biella pluton; K, Karawanken
matic sheets continuously coat the PFS from the surface pluton; P, Pohorje pluton; R, Rensen pluton; TL, tonalitic
down to 30 km depth. (2) Within the entire orogen steep lamellae; Z, Zinsnock pluton. Emplacement pressures from
magmatic sheets only occur at distances smaller than 0.5 km Altherr et al. [1995], Biermeier et al. [1999], Bigioggero
from the PFS. Exposed pluton floors, such as the western et al. [1994], Cesare [1992], Davidson et al. [1996], John
margin of the Bergell confirm that the feeders are exclu- and Blundy [1993], Martin et al. [1993], and Riklin
sively located along the PFS. (3) The main bodies of the [1983]. The depth of Karawanken Pluton is estimated on the
plutons preferentially occur on the northern side of the PFS. basis of the temperature in the enclosing rocks [from von
(4) The main bodies of the plutons consist of gently dipping Gosen, 1989]. Cross sections from Nollau [1974], Rosenberg
tabular bodies, whose thickness is much smaller than the et al. [1995], von Gosen [1989], and Wagner [2004]. Cross
inferred ascent distance. sections through Adamello and Pohorje are schematic.

13 of 21

the Periadriatic plutons may be connected to their source compared to the plutons. Therefore it is suggested that the
region at the base of the crust. linear arrangement of the plutons in map view does not
[40] The absence of any vertical magmatic sheets in the necessarily reflect a linear source region, but rather the
rest of the orogen suggests that the PFS is the only ascent channeling of magmas into the steep PFS mylonitic zone.
pathway of the Periadriatic plutons in the Oligocene. The 7.1.2. A Matter of Scale
southern Adamello plutons are older than all the other [45] Tomographic imaging of slab breakoff typically
intrusive bodies by several Ma (Figure 5a) probably predat- shows detachment gaps in the order of 102 km (e.g.,
ing the activity of the PFS. Hence these magmas are the Wortel and Spakman [2000] for the Appenninic chain). The
only ones that were not channeled along the PFS. width of the lithospheric mantle melted by upward flow of
[41] Figure 8 and the above review allow to derive a the asthenosphere and the resulting source region at the base
simplified common characteristic shape for the Periadriatic of the crust should be similar to that of the gap in the down-
plutons. Plutons are characterized by the transition from a going slab. In contrast, the inferred width of the zone
steep sheet parallel to the PFS, to a more flat-lying tabular containing the feeders of the Periadriatic Plutons is <5 km
body further away from the PFS. Large, well-developed flat- wide (Figure 8). It is unlikely that the source region had a
lying bodies are exposed in the Bergell (Figures 3c and 4b), width of less than 5 km over a length of 800 km.
in the Rieserferner Pluton (Figures 3d and 6b), and in the 7.1.3. Is the Linear Arrangement of the Plutons
Pohorje Pluton. The upper part of such tabular bodies Paleogeographically Controlled?
commonly rises into domal, or ballooning structures, as [46] The Periadriatic plutons are located at the bound-
exposed along the ‘‘side’’ of the Bergell [Conforto-Galli et aries between Austroalpine and Southalpine (Figure 1a;
al., 1988; Berger and Gieré, 1995; Rosenberg et al., 1995], Karawanken, Tonalitic Lamellae) and between Austroalpine
along the roof of the Rieserferner [Bianchi, 1934; Dal Piaz, and Penninic (Bergell), but also within the Austroalpine
1934; Steenken et al., 2000; Wagner, 2004], in the northern (Rensen, Rieserferner, Biella), and within the Southalpine
part of the Karawanken pluton [Exner, 1976] and possibly (Adamello, Miagliano). Hence the alignment of plutons is
in the eastern part of the Pohorje Pluton (P. Mioc, quoted not directly controlled by the older (Mesozoic) passive
by Exner [1976]). discontinuities, but rather by the synmagmatic activity of
one fault system, namely the PFS.
7.1.4. Localization of Deformation Into Partially Melted
7. Discussion Regions Versus Channeling of Melt Into Areas of
7.1. Linear Source or Linear Ascent Pathway? Localized Deformation
[47] Melt flow and deformation mutually interact, but the
[42] The alignment of the Periadriatic plutons along the
‘‘chicken and the egg’’ question about which process
PFS may be attributed to (1) the subvertical, buoyancy-
controls the other is not solved [Vauchez et al., 1997;
driven ascent of magmas above a linear source region,
Rosenberg and Handy, 2000]. Faults may nucleate where
inferred to result from the propagation of slab breakoff
melts have previously accumulated due to deformation
parallel to the strike of the chain [von Blanckenburg and
partitioning into the weakest (melt) phase [Hollister and
Davies, 1995]; (2) an orogen-scale shear zone along which
Crawford, 1986; Tommasi et al., 1994; Brown and Solar,
melts were formed, hence channeled [Pitcher and Bussell,
1998a] or melts may be channeled into previously existing
1977; Hutton and Reavy, 1992]; (3) localization of defor-
mation into a partially melted zone, evolving into a melt-
[48] In the Alps, several observations argue in favor of
bearing crustal-scale shear zone [Hollister and Crawford,
melt channeling into the already active PFS. The location,
1986]; (4) channeling of melts into the shear zone [Brown
geometry, shear sense, and orientation of the PFS in the
and Solar, 1998b] during ascent, irrespective of the geom-
Alpine orogen are analogous to the commonly observed
etry of the source region. Structural and geophysical data,
boundary of retrowedges of convergent orogens [Beaumont
and the spatial distribution of plutons and faults, help to
et al., 1994]. As shown by numerical models of the central
discriminate between these four possibilities.
Alps [Pfiffner et al., 2000] such crustal-scale backthrusts do
7.1.1. Spatial Distributions of Dikes and Plutons
not need any melts to nucleate. In addition, the areal
[43] Dikes of similar age (Figure 2) and composition as
percentage of the PFS presently covered by magmatic rocks
the Periadriatic plutons are widespread in the Alpine chain
is small (<30%). No deviations in the strike of the PFS
[e.g., Pamic et al., 2002], but they are not particularly close
occur between segments coated by magmatic rocks and
to the PFS (Figure 1a). This observation is consistent with
others that do not contain any magmatic rocks. Hence a
the inferred location of Oligocene volcanoes 25 km north
control of deformation on the site of melt transport is more
of the PFS [Siegenthaler, 1974]. These dikes have no
likely than a control of melt on the sites of localized
preferred orientation and are often discordant to the foliation
in the country rock [Exner, 1976; Mancktelow et al., 2001].
[44] Since these dikes are inferred to have the same
source as the plutons [von Blanckenburg et al., 1998], their 7.2. Channeling and Ascent Mechanisms
spatial distribution may be used to constrain the lateral [49] Since the PFS-parallel tonalitic sheets are nearly
extent of the source region. Although the dikes show a everywhere concordant to mylonitic foliation of their coun-
linear arrangement on the scale of the orogen (Figure 1a), try rocks, even at places where the primary intrusive contact
their spatial affinity to the PFS is much less pronounced is preserved [Berger et al., 1996] a mechanism of foliation-

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Figure 9. Model for the transition from ascent to emplacement. (a) Schematic diagram showing the
possible states of stress within the shear zone and in the rocks flanking the shear zone. Transpressive
deformation is partitioned into a simple shear component within the shear zone and a pure shear
component adjacent to the shear zone, leading to a swap of the intermediate and minor compressive stress
axes. The vertical orientation of the minor compressive stress adjacent to the shear zone favors opening of
horizontal fractures or dikes. (b) Horizontal dikes become shortened and hence folded and inflated.

parallel fracturing is likely to account for magma ascent between maximum compressive stress and schistosity is
along the PFS. >60° [Donath, 1961]. If this angle reaches a value 70°,
[50] Considering the strike-slip character of the PFS and foliation-parallel fracturing becomes difficult unless the
the strong anisotropy of its mylonitic foliation, steeply melt pressure is sufficiently high and differential stresses
dipping fractures are expected to form parallel to the are sufficiently small [Wickham, 1987]. Under these con-
foliation (Figure 9a). However, many segments of the PFS ditions fractures parallel to the mylonitic schistosity may
are inferred to be transpressive [e.g., Kleinschrodt, 1987; open against the maximum compressive stress. This model
Schmid et al., 1989; Polinski and Eisbacher, 1992; Berger was applied to explain ascent of the Bergell pluton along the
et al., 1996], suggesting that the angle between the fault mylonitic foliation of the PFS [Berger et al., 1996].
plane and the maximum compressive stress may be well [51] The schistosity of rocks and lithological boundaries
above 45°. Experiments on anisotropic rocks showed that exert a strong control on melt flow, on the grain scale
foliation-parallel fractures can form even if the angle [Sawyer, 2001], outcrop scale [Weber et al., 1985; Brown et

15 of 21

al., 1999] and crustal scale [Brown and Solar, 1998b; schistosity. As shown schematically in Figure 9, the transi-
Handy et al., 2001]. Generalization to the crustal scale is tion from a strike-slip zone to one of folding with steep axial
strengthened by the interpretation of field [Milnes, 1974; planes is marked by the rotation of the foliation from steep
Milnes and Pfiffner, 1980] and seismic data of the central mylonites into gently dipping foliation planes within the
Alps [e.g., Schmid et al., 1996a], showing that the only folded region. This rotation favors steep fractures in the
steeply oriented anisotropy, continuously crosscutting the shear zone and gently dipping ones outside the shear zone.
entire crust is represented by the mylonitic belt of the PFS [56] An excellent example of the control exerted by the
(see arrowheads in Figure 1b). foliation of the country rocks on melt flow is given by the
[52] An alternative and/or complementary process that base of the Bergell intrusion, showing that the transition
may channel melt into a shear zone is the pressure gradient from a steep orientation along the PFS into a gently dipping
resulting from the strength contrasts between mylonites and orientation north of the PFS perfectly matches the orienta-
the stronger, adjacent rocks. This contrast may induce melt tion of the foliation in the country rocks (Figure 4b). The
flow toward the weaker rocks [Stevenson, 1989; Rutter, base of the pluton and its magmatic foliation are always
1997; Rosenberg and Handy, 2000] of the shear zone, which concordant to the foliation of the underlying country rocks
support a smaller differential stress. If melt has already [Drescher-Kaden and Storz, 1926; Rosenberg et al., 1995;
started to accumulate within the shear zone, the strength Davidson et al., 1996], and the transition from a steep root
contrast between the melt-bearing shear zone and its host to a flat-lying main body corresponds to the transition from
rocks may be significant (>1 order of magnitude [van der a steep zone of backthrusting to one of subhorizontal flow
Molen and Paterson, 1979]), hence inducing a feedback in the country rocks [e.g., Merle and Guillier, 1989].
process, which drives more melt into the shear zone. [57] Except for the Adamello batholith, all main bodies of
the plutons intruded from the PFS to the north or NW, i.e.
7.3. Extrusion Mechanisms into the crustal block that was preferentially uplifted during
[53] Extrusion of melt from the PFS into the adjacent transpression [e.g., Schmid et al., 1989]. This differential
nappes leads to the formation of the main bodies of the uplift induced higher temperatures, hence lower strength in
Periadriatic plutons. This conclusion is supported by the the North for a given crustal depth. It is therefore suggested
observations outlined above, indicating that all vertical that the lower strength of the northern block favored
sheets lie along the PFS, while the gently dipping main extrusion of the tonalitic magmas. The exception made by
bodies of the plutons are adjacent to the PFS (Figure 8). the Adamello (Figures 1a and 5a) may confirm the afore-
Several factors may account for a transition from subvertical mentioned rule. In fact, continuous intrusion of the Ada-
flow to subhorizontal extrusion outside the shear zone. In mello plutons, from 42 to 29 Ma, leading to the construction
particular, the rheology and anisotropy (foliation and/or of the Adamello batholith [Del Moro et al., 1983a], created
lithological contacts) of the country rocks may control the a thermal anomaly, hence crustal weakness in the South
site of final emplacement [Gilbert, 1877; Roman-Berdiel et Alpine block. This temperature increase was probably not
al., 1995; Handy et al., 2001], in addition to the regional balanced by differential uplift of the northern block, which
stress field. was not significant in the Adamello region [Stipp et al.,
[54] The transpressive setting of the PFS suggests that 2004].
regional stresses may have been different in the mylonites
of the PFS and in the rocks flanking the PFS. Transpres- 7.4. Space for Final Emplacement
sional deformation may lead to partitioning of the simple [58] The inferred emplacement mechanisms of the Peri-
shear component within the shear zone, while the pure adriatic plutons range from cauldron subsidence (Biella
shear component affects the adjacent block. This effect is pluton [Bigioggero et al., 1994]) to ballooning (several
enhanced by the presence of melt in the shear zone plutons of the Adamello [John and Blundy, 1993; Stipp et
[Vigneresse and Tikoff, 1999]. Jones and Tanner [1995] al., 2004]; eastern Bergell pluton [Conforto-Galli et al.,
briefly reviewed the occurrence of such shear zones, 1988; Berger and Gieré, 1995]) to mode I fracturing,
showing that the principal compressive stress in the leading to the formation of a sill (Rieserferner pluton
rocks flanking the shear zone is oriented perpendicular to [Wagner, 2004]) to stoping (southern Adamello [Brack,
the shear plane. Under these conditions, melt-induced 1983; Zattin et al., 1995]).
extensional cracks in the mylonites of the PFS and in [59] None of the above mechanisms can be directly
the rocks flanking the PFS may have different orientations related to specific displacements along the PFS and none
(Figure 9a). In the area flanking the shear zone, where of the plutons is inferred to be emplaced within a releasing
the ‘‘press’’ component [Robin and Cruden, 1994] domi- bend, or a secondary, extensional structure of the PFS.
nates, the least compressive stress is expected to be Therefore the specific emplacement mechanisms of each
vertical, favoring the formation of sub-horizontal fractures pluton seem to be controlled by the local conditions at the
(Figure 9a). In contrast, within the sub-vertical shear zone, site of emplacement, and not by the PFS.
where the strike-slip component dominates, the least com- [60] A common feature of the main bodies of the Peri-
pressive stress is expected to be sub-horizontal (Figure 9a) adriatic plutons is the occurrence of discordant contacts
and hence extensional fractures are sub-vertical. along their sides and roofs, as shown by the Biella, by the
[55] The latter change in orientation of extensional frac- northern and eastern sides of the Bergell, by several plutons
tures may be facilitated by the change in orientation of the of the Adamello, and by large parts of the roof of the

16 of 21

Rieserferner Pluton. Such contacts can only form by frac- or absence of magmas at a specific crustal level is totally
turing of the enclosing rocks, followed by flow of magma independent of the fault kinematics at the time of em-
into the fractured region. These fractures may be thermally placement. Tonalitic magmas from the same source
induced (stoping), or represent extensional cracks, resulting ascended along the sinistral, transpressive DAV Line as
from regionally imposed differential stresses. Except for well as along the dextral Insubric, Tonale and Gailtal Lines
some of the Adamello plutons, the occurrence of xenoliths (Figure 1a). Also, the difference between dominating
and stoped blocks is rare, suggesting that the discordant vertical displacement (i.e., along parts of the Insubric
contacts result from mode I fracturing. Ballooning or Line) and pure lateral displacement (e.g., Gailtal Line)
doming of the roof is common (Bergell, Adamello, Rieser- does not appear to control the presence or absence of
ferner, Karawanken) during the last stages of final emplace- magmas (Figure 1a). Several Periadriatic plutons ascended
ment [Davidson et al., 1996; Stipp et al., 2004; Wagner, up to shallow crustal levels along PFS segments charac-
2004], after the gently dipping main bodies have formed. terized by lateral displacement and subhorizontal stretching
lineations. Deformation rates along the PFS and shear
7.5. Dikes Versus Diapirs zones in general are probably too slow to influence the
[61] The aspect ratios of the tonalitic lamellae and the much faster ascent rates of magmas.
exposed feeders of the Periadriatic plutons are generally
small, varying from 2 to 80 (Figure 3a). Compared to 7.7. Geometry of the Periadriatic Plutons and Statistical
typical aspect ratios of dikes [e.g., Rubin, 1993], these Analyses on the Distribution of Plutons and Faults
values are smaller by 2 – 3 orders of magnitude. Similar [65] Image analysis has recently been used to characterize
aspect ratios are described from shear-zone related plutons the spatial relationship between plutons and faults in map
in Brazil [Vauchez et al., 1997] and mid-crustal vertical view, on the scale of orogens [Paterson and Schmidt, 1999;
sheets in the Cascades (USA [Paterson and Miller, 1998]). Schmidt and Paterson, 2000]. These investigations related
The host rocks of the latter sheets indicate pluton-up the surface area of discrete portions of plutons to the nearest
shear senses, suggesting that the upward flow of the faults. In the case of faults bounding one side of a circular
magmas occurred by ductile displacement of the host rocks pluton, this type of image analysis yields a poor spatial
[Paterson and Miller, 1998], i.e., by diapiric ascent. correlation between fault and pluton [Schmidt and Paterson,
[62] The small aspect ratio of the Periadriatic feeders may 2000]. This result is in conflict with most structural inves-
be explained by lateral expansion during crystallization, tigations of syntectonic plutons, showing that the faults
when the viscosity ratio between magma and host rock inferred to accommodate space for the intrusions always
decreases. Assuming a constant melt pressure, a reduction border, but never crosscut the core of the plutons. If this
in the viscosity ratio can induce a switch to diapirism analysis was applied to the Periadriatic plutons, which only
[Ramberg, 1981; Rubin, 1993]. Given that the main bodies form thin sheets along the fault zone but cover large surface
had sufficient time and pressure to inflate after their areas away from the fault, it would result in a poor spatial
emplacement, the same should be true for the feeders. Such correlation between fault and plutons. In contrast, structural
a lateral expansion would reduce the aspect ratio of the and petrologic investigations suggest that the entire volume
tonalitic sheets. Alternatively, faulting along multiple planes of magma ascended along the fault plane, before it extruded
can thicken the intrusion front [Rubin, 1993]. Examples of northward. Therefore the poor spatial correlation indicated
the latter process may be the western end of the Bergell by the aforementioned analysis results from an assumption,
tonalitic tail, which splits into different intrusion-parallel that is not valid for shear-zone fed intrusions.
sheets in map view (e.g., 1:25,000 Swiss geological map [66] Geologic maps and cross sections of the Periadriatic
Passo S. Jorio) and the top of the Karawanken tonalite, Plutons show that all the feeders are located along the PFS.
showing similar geometrical features in cross section Therefore, except for the earlier intrusions of the Southern
[Exner, 1971]. Adamello, all of the Oligocene magmas ascended along the
[63] The different behavior of the Periadriatic plutons and PFS, even though the largest area of intrusive rocks in map
their cogenetic dikes remains unresolved. Large volumes of view is located adjacent to, and not within, the mylonitic
magma used the anisotropy of the PFS, to form plutons at belt in map view.
higher crustal levels. In contrast, small volumes of magma
ascended often discordantly to the anisotropy of the enclos- 7.8. Extrapolation to Other Orogens
ing rocks, forming the large number of Tertiary dykes [67] The type of spatial and temporal relationship be-
(Figure 1a) that do not show a close spatial correlation to tween Periadriatic plutons and PFS is not uncommon in
the PFS. other orogens, characterized by large-scale, synmagmatic
shear zones. In the Variscan South Armorican Shear Zone
7.6. Role of Fault Kinematics the main bodies of the plutons are located adjacent to the
[64] It has been suggested that the kinematics of faults mylonitic zone, whereas thin sheets of the same plutons lie
may control the ascent of magmas, by enhancing ascent in along the shear zone itself [Jegouzo, 1980]. The same
case of vertical displacement and by inhibiting ascent in appears to be true for the Neoproterozoic West Pernambuco
case of lateral, strike-slip displacement [Brown and Solar, Shear Zone of Brazil [Vauchez and Egydio da Silva, 1992]
1998a]. Comparing segments of the PFS affected by and the Central Maine Belt of the United States [Brown and
different kinematics (Figure 1a) suggests that the presence Solar, 1998b].

17 of 21

[68] In spite of the small number of studies which outside of the mylonitic belt suggests that ascent and
document cross sections of plutons, several examples from emplacement are different processes. Ascent is clearly
outside the Alps illustrate the transition from a zone of controlled by the anisotropy and deformation of the PFS
ascent within a steep shear zone to flat-lying plutons mylonites, whereas emplacement is largely unaffected by
adjacent to, but outside of, the shear zone [Witkind, 1973; the PFS.
Castro, 1986; Reavy, 1989; Cruden and Aaro, 1992; [72] Ascending magmas are not affected by the kinemat-
Aranguren et al., 1997; Archanjo et al., 1999; Gilder and ics and orientation of finite stretching in the PFS. Fault
McNulty, 1999; Kalakay et al., 2001]. In contrast, gravi- kinematics vary from one segment to the other of the PFS,
metric studies of syntectonic plutons indicate that the deep- but all segments are coated by magmatic bodies (Figure 1a)
est parts of the intrusive bodies are not located within the that ascended coevally. Ascent rates are probably faster than
fault zone itself, suggesting that the feeders are systemati- deformation rates in shear zones. Therefore deformation
cally offset with respect to the fault zone [Vigneresse, 1995]. does not directly influence the flow direction of melt by
Note, however, that magmatic bodies must have a width of imposing its direction of finite elongation. It is rather the
500 m in order to be detected by gravimetric investiga- anisotropy and the weakening resulting from deformation
tions [Vigneresse, 1990]. The example of the Periadriatic that create a preferential pathway for melt flow. This
plutons shows that many of the potential feeders (the conclusion is supported by the fact that all intrusive bodies
tonalitic lamellae) do not reach this width, and thus they are situated along the only steeply oriented structure that
would not be detected by gravimetric studies. continuously crosscuts the entire Alpine crust (Figure 1b).
[73] Partitioning of transpressional deformation into
strike-slip and pure shear deformation along and adjacent
8. Conclusions to the PFS respectively, favors the formation of steep
[69] The Periadriatic plutons are both temporally and foliation-parallel fractures along the PFS and gently dipping
spatially related to the PFS. This relationship is a causative ones north of the PFS, and hence the transition from ascent
one, determined by the ascent of magmas along a steeply- to emplacement. The gently dipping fractures may evolve
oriented crustal-scale shear zone. The continuous occur- into sills, which finally inflate by uplifting the country rocks
rence of coeval and cogenetic magmatic rocks along one or, alternatively, by radial expansion as balloons.
and the same shear zone down to 30 km depth and the [74] The PFS formed independently of the Periadriatic
absence of any other feeder channels of Oligocene age in magmas. Hence melting in the lower crust is not the cause
the entire orogen strongly suggests that crustal-scale shear of large-scale localization of deformation, while localization
zones are effective agents of melt transport. of deformation along the PFS is the cause of channeled of
[70] The linear distribution of plutons in map view is the magma ascent through the crust.
result of melt channeling from the source region into the
PFS. The source region may have been elongate parallel to [75] Acknowledgments. The journal reviewers J.-L. Bouchez,
N. Mancktelow, S. Schmid, and the Associate Editor A. Pfiffner are greatly
the axis of the orogen, but its width must have been larger acknowledged for their constructive and thorough reviews. Funding by the
than that inferred for the ascent channel of the Periadriatic Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Ha 2403/3-2) is acknowledged. Alfons
plutons (<5 km) Berger, Peter Brack, Bernardo Cesare, Cam Davidson, Mark Handy,
Silvana Martin, Stefan Schmid and Ralph Wagner shared helpful discus-
[71] The occurrence of steeply-inclined feeders within or sions on the Periadriatic plutons. Michael Stipp kindly provided preprints of
adjacent to the PFS mylonites and of flat-lying plutons his work on the Adamello batholith and a review of the present paper.

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Figure 1

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Figure 1. Tectonic map and cross section of the Alps. (a) Simplified tectonic map of the Alps, with enlargements of some
segments of the PFS showing the spatial distribution of the Oligo-Miocene dikes and of the Periadriatic plutons. Only the
major faults of Tertiary age are shown. Redrawn after Bigi et al. [1990]. Faults are labeled as follows: CL, Canavese Line;
DAV, DAV Line; GL, Giudicarie Line; GTL, Gailtal Line; IL, Insubric Line; LT, Lavantal Line; PL, Pustertal Line. Full
circles indicate dikes. The size of the dikes is exaggerated by several orders of magnitude. Plutons are labeled as follows: A,
Adamello; An, andesites of the Canavese Line; B, Bergell; Bi, Biella; K, Karawanken; L, Lesachtal body; M, Miagliano
pluton; P, Pohorje; R, Rieserferner; Re, Rensen; T, Traversella; TL, tonalitic lamellae. Pink shading indicates areas with
exposed Tertiary dikes. The x-x0 is the trace of cross section of Figure 1b. Note that only parts of the dikes are dated. Most
of them are inferred to be Oligocene on the basis of petrographic analogy with the dated ones and of crosscutting
relationships with their country rocks. (b) Cross section of the central Alps, based on the interpretation of geologic and
seismic data. Simplified after Schmid et al. [1996a]. Arrowheads mark the mylonitic belt of the PFS, which is the only steep
structure crosscutting the entire crust. The northern boundary of the lower European crust is inferred to be aligned to the
PFS at the time of intrusion of the Periadriatic plutons [Schmid et al., 1996a].

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Figure 3. Geometry and orientation of the Periadriatic plutons. (a) Aspect ratios of plutons versus distance to PFS. Open
squares indicate steep sheets, subparallel to the PFS. Solid squares indicate gently inclined plutons and main bodies of
plutons. Labels are as follows: Bi, Biella; Po, Pohorje pluton; Be, main body of the Bergell; Ri, main body of the
Rieserferner. (b) Steeply, north dipping foliation of the tonalitic tail of the Bergell pluton. This tonalitic sheet and its
foliation are parallel to the mylonites of the PFS. (c) Gently dipping floor of the Bergell pluton; Val Codera (Italy). Photo,
C. Davidson. (d) Gently dipping roof of the Rieserferner pluton; Geltal (Italy).

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Figure 3

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