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Tectonic evolution of the Betic–Rif arc: New constraints from 40Ar/39Ar dating on white micas in the Temsamane units (External Rif, northern Morocco)

, Negro, François, De Sigoyer Julia, Goffé, Bruno, Saddiqi, Omar, Villa, Igor M

The Betic–Rif orogen, at the western end of the Mediterranean, is a key region to improve our knowledge on the Africa–Eurasia convergence. The Temsamane units, in spite of their external position in the Rif (northern Morocco), underwent medium-pressure low-temperature (MP–LT) conditions (ca. 7–9 kbar; 330–430 °C). We propose a new tectonic and metamorphic evolution scenario for the Rif (southern) branch of the orogen on the basis of first 40Ar/39Ar dating on petrologically and structurally characterized white micas. Three groups of 40Ar/39Ar ages are observed: (1) Chattian or older Si-rich (highest-pressure) mica relics, (2) 15–12.5 Ma corresponding to the micas defining the foliation and (3) Messinian or younger late micas and alteration. We propose that the MP–LT metamorphic event in the External Rif is Oligocene in age, highlighting a subduction event during this period which could be almost contemporaneous with the burial of HP–LT units from the internal Rif (Alboran Domain). The exhumation of these units characterized by an intense E–W stretching and by top-to-the-west shear senses, is Middle to Late Miocene in age. We propose a correlation of tectonic and metamorphic events at the Betic–Rif arc scale. We argue that the exhumation of the external units of the Rif (1) is younger than that of the Alboran Domain (internal) unit of the Rif, and mirrors a different tectonic setting, but (2) strongly resembles to that documented in the lower Alboran Domain units of the Betics. We show that a regional E–W extension is recorded on both sides of the Betic–Rif arc during the Middle Miocene. This extension probably reflects back-arc deformation of an eastward dipping subduction that retreated westward during the Middle to Late Miocene in the Western Mediterranean.