Oblique strike-slip motion off the Southeastern Continental Margin of India: Implication for the separation of Sri Lanka from India

Maria Ana Desa, Mohammad Ismaiel, Yenne Suresh, Kolluru Sree Krishna

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The ocean floor in the Bay of Bengal has evolved after the breakup of India from Antarctica since the Early Cretaceous. Recent geophysical investigations including updated satellite derived gravity map postulated two phases for the tectonic evolution of the Bay of Bengal, the first phase of spreading occurred in the NW-SE direction forming its Western Basin, while the second phase occurred in the N-S direction resulting in its Eastern Basin. Lack of magnetic data along the spreading direction in the Western Basin prompted us to acquire new magnetic data along four tracks (totaling ∼3000 km) to validate the previously identified magnetic anomaly picks. Comparison of the synthetic seafloor spreading model with the observed magnetic anomalies confirmed the presence of Mesozoic anomalies M12n to M0 in the Western Basin. Further, the model suggests that this spreading between India and Antarctica took place with half-spreading rates of 2.7–4.5 cm/yr. The trend of the fracture zones in the Western Basin with respect to that of the Southeastern Continental Margin of India (SCMI) suggests that SCMI is an oblique transform margin with 37° obliquity. Further, the SCMI consists of two oblique transform segments separated by a small rift segment. The strike-slip motion along the SCMI is bounded by the rift segments of the Northeastern Continental Margin of India and the southern margin of Sri Lanka. The margin configuration and fracture zones inferred in its conjugate Western Enderby Basin, East Antarctica helped in inferring three spreading corridors off the SCMI in the Western Basin of the Bay of Bengal. Detailed grid reconstruction models traced the oblique strike-slip motion off the SCMI since M12n time. The strike-slip motion along the short northern transform segment ended by M11n time. The longer transform segment, found east of Sri Lanka lost its obliquity and became a pure oceanic transform fault by M0 time. The eastward propagation of the Africa-Antarctica spreading center initiated the anticlockwise separation of Sri Lanka from India by M12n time. Seafloor spreading south of Sri Lanka due to the India-Antarctica spreading episode and the simultaneously occurring strike-slip motion east of Sri Lanka restricted this separation resulting in a failed rift. Thus Sri Lanka with strike-slip motion to its east, failed rift towards west, continental extension to its north and rifting to its south behaved as a short lived microplate during the Early Cretaceous period and remained attached to India thereafter.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)111-121
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Asian Earth Sciences
StatePublished - 1 May 2018


  • Fracture zones
  • Mesozoic magnetic anomalies
  • Oblique strike-slip motion
  • Southeastern Continental Margin of India
  • Spreading corridors
  • Sri Lanka


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