The seismic profile of the crust of the northern part of the Basin and Range province by its thinness and layering is intermediate between typical continental and oceanic crust and resembles that of marginal ocean basins, especially those with thick sedimentary fill. The geologic history of the Great Basin indicates that it was the site of a succession of marginal ocean basins opening and closing behind volcanic arcs during much of Paleozoic time. A long process of sedimentation and deformation followed throughout the Mesozoic modifying, but possibly not completely transforming the originally oceanic crust to continental crust. In the Cenozoic, after at least 40 m.y. of quiescence and stable conditions, substantial crustal and upper-mantle changes are recorded by elevation of the entire region in isostatic equilibrium, crustal extension resulting in Basin and Range faulting, extensive volcanism, high heat flow and a low-velocity mantle. These phenomena, apparently the result of plate tectonics, are superimposed on the inherited subcontinental crust that developed from an oceanic origin in Paleozoic time and possibly retained some of its thin and layered characteristics. The present anomalous crust in the Great Basin represents an accretion of oceanic geosynclinal material to a Precambrian continental nucleus apparently as an intermediate step in the process of conversion of oceanic crust into a stable continental landmass or craton. ?? 1974.
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Thin and layered subcontinental crust of the great Basin western north America inherited from Paleozoic marginal ocean basins?