Recognition of a major Precambrian continental-scale, two-stage conjugate strike-slip fault system - here designated as the Trans-Rocky Mountain fault system - provides new insights into the architecture of the North American continent. The fault system consists chiefly of steep linear to curvilinear, en echelon, braided and branching ductile-brittle shears and faults, and local coeval en echelon folds of northwest strike, that cut indiscriminately across both Proterozoic and Archean cratonic elements. The fault system formed during late stages of two distinct tectonic episodes: Neoarchean and Paleoproterozoic orogenies at about 2.70 and 1.70 billion years (Ga). In the Archean Superior province, the fault system formed (about 2.70-2.65 Ga) during a late stage of the main deformation that involved oblique shortening (dextral transpression) across the region and progressed from crystal-plastic to ductile-brittle deformation. In Paleoproterozoic terranes, the fault system formed about 1.70 Ga, shortly following amalgamation of Paleoproterozoic and Archean terranes and the main Paleoproterozoic plastic-fabric-producing events in the protocontinent, chiefly during sinistral transpression. The postulated driving force for the fault system is subcontinental mantle deformation, the bottom-driven deformation of previous investigators. This model, based on seismic anisotropy, invokes mechanical coupling and subsequent shear between the lithosphere and the asthenosphere such that a major driving force for plate motion is deep-mantle flow.
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The Trans-Rocky Mountain Fault System - A Fundamental Precambrian Strike-Slip System