The Vema Transverse Ridge (Central Atlantic)

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Marine Geophysical Researches
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Transverse ridges are elongate reliefs running parallel and adjacent to transform/fracture zones offsetting mid-ocean ridges. A major transverse ridge runs adjacent to the Vema transform (Central Atlantic), that offsets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge by 320 km. Multibeam morphobathymetric coverage of the entire Vema Transverse ridge shows it is an elongated (similar to 300 km), narrow (< 30 km at the base) relief that constitutes a topographic anomaly rising up to 4 km above the predicted thermal contraction level. Morphology and lithology suggest that the Vema Transverse ridge is an uplifted sliver of oceanic lithosphere. Topographic and lithological asymmetry indicate that the transverse ridge was formed by flexure of a lithospheric sliver, uncoupled on its northern side by the transform fault. The transverse ridge can be subdivided in segments bound by topographic discontinuities that are probably fault-controlled, suggesting some differential uplift and/or tilting of the different segments. Two of the segments are capped by shallow water carbonate platforms, that formed about 3-4 m.y. ago, at which time the crust of the transverse ridge was close to sea level. Sampling by submersible and dredging indicates that a relatively undisturbed section of oceanic lithosphere is exposed on the northern slope of the transverse ridge. Preliminary studies of mantle-derived ultramafic rocks from this section suggest temporal variations in mantle composition. An inactive fracture zone scarp (Lema fracture zone) was mapped south of the Vema Transverse ridge. Based on morphology, a fossil RTI was identified about 80 km west of the presently active RTI, suggesting that a ridge jump might have occurred about 2.2 m.a. Most probable causes for the formation of the Vema Transverse ridge are vertical motions of lithospheric slivers due to small changes in the direction of spreading of the plates bordering the Vema Fracture Zone.


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