Evidence for and implications of sedimentary diapirism and mud volcanism in the southern Utopia highland-lowland boundary plain, Mars

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Several types of spatially associated landforms in the southern Utopia Planitia highland–lowland boundary (HLB) plain appear to have resulted from localized geologic activity, including (1) fractured rises, (2) elliptical mounds, (3) pitted cones with emanating lobate materials, and (4) isolated and coalesced cavi (depressions). Stratigraphic analysis indicates these features are Hesperian or younger and may be associated with resurfacing that preferentially destroyed smaller (<8km diameter) impact craters. Based on landform geomorphologies and spatial distributions, the documented features do not appear to be specifically related to igneous or periglacial processes or the back-wasting and erosion of the HLB scarp. We propose that these features are genetically related to and formed by sedimentary (mud) diapirs that ascended from zones of regionally confined, poorly consolidated, and mechanically weak material. We note morphologic similarities between the mounds and pitted cones of the southern Utopia boundary plain and terrestrial mud volcanoes in the Absheron Peninsula, Azerbaijan. These analogs provide a context for understanding the geological environments and processes that supported mud diapir-related modification of the HLB. In southern Utopia, mud diapirs near the Elysium volcanic edifice may have resulted in laccolith-like intrusions that produced the fractured rises, while in the central boundary plain mud diapirs could have extruded to form pitted cones, mounds, and lobate flows, perhaps related to compressional stresses that account for wrinkle ridges. The removal of material a few kilometers deep by diapiric processes may have resulted in subsidence and deformation of surface materials to form widespread cavi. Collectively, these inferences suggest that sedimentary diapirism and mud volcanism as well as related surface deformations could have been the dominant Hesperian mechanisms that altered the regional boundary plain. We discuss a model in which detritus would have accumulated thickly in the annular spaces between impact-generated structural rings of Utopia basin. We envision that these materials, and perhaps buried ejecta of Utopia basin, contained volatile-rich, low-density material that could provide the source material for the postulated sedimentary diapirs. Thick, water-rich, low-density sediments buried elsewhere along the HLB and within the lowland plains may account for similar landforms and resurfacing histories.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evidence for and implications of sedimentary diapirism and mud volcanism in the southern Utopia highland-lowland boundary plain, Mars
Series title Icarus
DOI 10.1016/j.icarus.2006.08.013
Volume 186
Issue 1
Year Published 2007
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description 19 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Icarus
First page 41
Last page 59
Other Geospatial Mars; Utopia Planitia
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