Evolution of salt structures of the Pyrenean rift (Chaînons Béarnais, France): From hyper-extension to tectonic inversion

Pierre Labaume*, Antonio Teixell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The Chaînons Béarnais is a salt-detached fold belt in the northern Pyrenees that formerly occupied the axis of the Cretaceous Pyrenean rift. Geological map revision and cross-section construction from surface geology and industrial well and seismic reflection data emphasize the role of salt diapirism in the folding of the belt during the Cretaceous extension and the subsequent Pyrenean orogeny. Pre-rift Triassic evaporites played a fundamental role during rifting, allowing the sedimentary basin lying above to detach and slide down the hyper-extended margins onto a central exhumed mantle tract. Since the Early Cretaceous (and locally probably since the Jurassic) a system of low-amplitude salt walls evolved in shallow marine environments punctuated by episodic emersion. During the main stage of crustal extension, in late Aptian to early Cenomanian times, carbonate shelves rapidly drowned giving rise to deeper marine sedimentation. This was a period of major rise of salt walls, progressively detached from their substratum. These salt walls enclosed minibasins that accumulated thick flysch deposits arranged in growth stratal patterns. Depocenter migration and foundering of previous diapiric highs controlled further flysch deposition during the Late Cretaceous, while moderate extension probably persisted until the onset of the Pyrenean compression. During the late Santonian to Paleogene Pyrenean orogeny, the sedimentary lid of the Chaînons Béarnais basin climbed back along the Triassic detachment onto the colliding continental margins, leading to salt wall squeezing and further rising. Based on the Cretaceous timing and style of growth folding, we suggest that salt wall squeezing was not solely related to the Pyrenean compression, but shortening affected the diapiric ridges during the syn-rift sliding by gravity and crowding in the basin center, as the rifted margins were pulled apart from beneath. This makes the Chaînons Béarnais belt a unique field analog for contractional salt-tectonic systems in distal continental margins.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number228451
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2020


  • Continental margin
  • Hyper-extension
  • Minibasin
  • Pyrenees
  • Salt tectonics
  • Tectonic inversion


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