The distribution of relocated seismicity and the evolving shape of fracture zones through time in the oceanic crust of the Australian Plate adjacent to the Australia:Pacific plate boundary south of New Zealand are used to constrain the deformation of this region of the Australian Plate, here called the Puysegur Block. Relocated seismicity reveals a broad distribution of earthquakes in the Puysegur Block on both inter- and intraplate structures, including two great (M8+) earthquakes in the region over the past twenty years, one of which occurred over 130 km from the plate boundary. Plate reconstructions from the Late Oligocene through Early-Mid Miocene allow us to determine the undeformed shape of fracture zones in the Puysegur Block, formed during the Paleogene when the plate boundary was dominantly a divergent mid-ocean ridge system. Comparing these reconstructions to the present-day shape of the fracture zones allows us to map the deformation that has occurred within the Puysegur Block since the fracture zones formed. These two sets of independent observations delineate a broad zone of deformation extending ~ 150 km into the plate interior from the Macquarie Ridge Complex, the modern plate boundary structure through the region. The persistence of this deformation through time indicates a link with the evolution of the plate boundary over the past ~ 25 Ma from divergence to translation and subduction of the Australian Plate further north at the Puysegur Trench. We infer that this deformation may be a result of stresses in the Puysegur Block resulting from the impingement of the subducting plate on the thickened lithosphere of southern New Zealand. Such a collision may resist subduction, and if resistance remains substantial, further deformation internal to the Puysegur Block may lead to a southward migration of the Australia:Pacific subduction interface and the capturing of this section of lithosphere onto the Pacific Plate.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth-Surface Processes