Deformation in the striped rock pluton, southwest Virginia

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The Striped Rock pluton of the late-Proterozoic Crossnore Plutonic-Volcanic suite is located beneath the Fries Thrust zone in the Blue Ridge province of southwest Virginia. The multiphase granite pluton has been affected by episodes of brittle and crystal plastic deformation at both the microscopic and mesoscopic scales. Brittle deformation preceded and postdated crystal plastic deformation.

The pluton is cut by pervasive centimeter-scale cataclasite zones and ductile shear zones that vary in width from a few millimeters to several hundred meters. The majority of mylonite zones in the pluton strike east and northeast and are inclined moderately southeast. Cataclasite zones strike northeast and northwest. Deformation is most intense along the southern contact with the Cranberry gneiss where both pluton and country rock are deformed into a northeast-striking zone of mylonitic augen gneiss. The intensity of deformation decreases northwestward. Southeastdirected normal fault displacement is common to east and northeast-trending shear zones. A minor group of northwest-oriented shear zones dip moderately southwest and northeast and show sinistral, strike-slip displacement. Quartz-, chlorite- and stilpnomelane-filled cracks and veins with northeast and northwest trend uniformly overprint mylonite and cataclasite zones of all scales.

Microstructure changes progressively with increasing strain. Feldspar grains are cut by at least two generations of mineralized, dilatant microcracks. Minerals precipitated in the early set of microcracks have undergone extensive crystal plastic deformation. Late-stage microcracks are filled with completely undeformed minerals.

The spatial distribution of normal fault mylonite zones is geometrically consistent with generation during 1) late-Proterozoic extension, 2) Mesozoic extension, 3) rigid-body rotation during Paleozoic thrusting, or 4) "gravitational collapse" during Paleozoic thrusting. Field and microstructural evidence favor (4). The exact timing of deformation is not, however, well-constrained.