Crustal Evolution of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge near the Fifteen-Twenty Fracture Zone in the last 5 Ma Academic Article uri icon


  • The Mid-Atlantic Ridge around the Fifteen-Twenty Fracture Zone is unique in that outcrops of lower crust and mantle rocks are extensive on both flanks of the axial valley walls over an unusually long distance along-axis, indicating a high ratio of tectonic to magmatic extension. On the basis of newly collected multibeam bathymetry, magnetic, and gravity data, we investigate crustal evolution of this unique section of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge over the last 5 Ma. The northern and southern edges of the study area, away from the fracture zone, contain long abyssal hills with small spacing and fault throw, well lineated and high-amplitude magnetic signals, and residual mantle Bouguer anomaly (RMBA) lows, all of which suggest relatively robust magmatic extension. In contrast, crust in two ridge segments immediately north of the fracture zone and two immediately to the south is characterized by rugged and blocky topography, by low-amplitude and discontinuous magnetization stripes, and by RMBA highs that imply thin crust throughout the last 5 Ma. Over these segments, morphology is typically asymmetric across the spreading axis, indicating significant tectonic thinning of crust caused by faults that have persistently dipped in only one direction. North of the fracture zone, however, megamullions are that thought to have formed by slip on long-lived normal faults are found on both ridge flanks at different ages and within the same spreading segment. This unusual partitioning of megamullions can be explained either by a ridge jump or by polarity reversal of the detachment fault following formation of the first megamullion.

publication date

  • March 2003