The offshore branch of the East African Rift System: crustal fabric across the Kerimbas Graben region

Wilfried.Jokat [ at ]


The Davie Fracture Zone (DFZ) evolved during the Jurassic and Cretaceous breakup and subsequent drift of Gondwana off East Africa. This old weak zone has been reactivated during the evolution of the East African Rift System. Recent faulting of Cenozoic sediments in the Kerimbas Basin off northern Mozambique shows that they are affected by the neotectonics. The question is if and howthe crustal fabric in our research area has been modified by the rifting process. We present two seismic refraction profiles acquired offshore northern Mozambique to investigate its regional crustal structure and tectonic history. The profiles show a continent– ocean transition zone that widens from around 40 km at 13◦S to more than 100 km at 11◦S. In the west the transitional crust is up to 12 km thick. To the east, around 150 km off the Mozambique coast lies oceanic crust whose thickness varies from 4.9 to 6.5 km along the northern line and from 6.5 to 7.5 km along the southern one. The latter presents an unusual high-velocity lower crustal body (7.0–7.2 km s−1), about 40 km wide and 3.8 km thick, underlying the oceanic crust. The body may consist of underplated melt with the same source as the nearby Paisley Seamount, which has not yet reached its isostatic equilibrium. Despite well documented recent seismicity along the margin, neither of the profiles reveal significant crustal modifications or reduced crustal seismic velocities that might be related to ongoing extensional tectonics as part of of the East African Rift System. Neither profile reveals seismic evidence for the presence of a major fracture zone or sheared continental margin parallel to the margin. Instead, the profiles’ broad continent–ocean transitions are consistent with their formation during an early Jurassic stage of plate divergence oblique to the margin. Later, after 157 Ma, the azimuth of relative plate motion between East andWest Gondwana changed to be parallel to the margin, and parts of the continent–ocean transitions may have been locally reactivated in a strike-slip sense. However, details on the plate movements during the directional change of the seafloor spreading between 157 and 144 Ma are not available. The oceanic crust formed by the initial divergent oblique extension became faulted/modified by the strike-slip movements between both plates. Instead of a narrow deformation zone, the DFZ is charcaterized by a broad, diffuse zone of transtensional deformation.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.1093/gji/ggab194

Cite as
Vormann, M. and Jokat, W. (2021): The offshore branch of the East African Rift System: crustal fabric across the Kerimbas Graben region , Geophysical Journal International, 226 (3), pp. 2073-2102 . doi: 10.1093/gji/ggab194

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