Marine Geophysical Researches

, Volume 24, Issue 3–4, pp 171–205 | Cite as

Structural patterns and tectonic history of the Bauer microplate, Eastern Tropical Pacific

  • Barry W. Eakins
  • Peter F. Lonsdale


The Bauer microplate was an independent slab of oceanic lithosphere that from 17 Ma to 6 Ma grew from 1.4 × 105 km2 to 1.2 × 106 km2 between the rapidly diverging Pacific and Nazca plates. Growth was by accretion at the lengthening and overlapping axes of the (Bauer-Nazca) Galapagos Rise (GR) and the (Pacific-Bauer) East Pacific Rise (EPR). EPR and GR axial propagation to create and rapidly grow the counter-clockwise spinning microplate occurred in two phases: (1) 17–15Ma, when the EPR axis propagated north and the GR axis propagated south around a narrow (100- to 200-km-wide) core of older lithosphere; and (2) 8–6 Ma, when rapid northward propagation of the EPR axis resumed, overlapping ∼400 km of the fast-spreading Pacific-Nazca rise-crest and appending a large (200- to 400-km-wide) area of the west flank of that rise as a ‘northern annex’ to the microplate. Between 15 and 8 Ma the microplate grew principally by crustal accretion at the crest of its rises. The microplate was captured by the Nazca plate and the Galapagos Rise axis became extinct soon after 6 Ma, when the south end of the Pacific-Bauer EPR axis became aligned with the southern Pacific-Nazca EPR axis and its north end was linked by the Quebrada Transform to the northern Pacific-Nazca EPR axis. Incomplete multibeam bathymetry of the microplate margins, and of both flanks of the Pacific-Bauer and Bauer-Nazca Rises, together with archival magnetic and satellite altimetry data, clarifies the growth and (counter-clockwise) rotation of the microplate, and tests tectonic models derived from studies of the still active, much smaller, Easter and Juan Fernandez microplates. Our interpretations differ from model predictions in that Euler poles were not located on the microplate boundary, propagation in the 15–8 Ma phase of growth was not toward these poles, and microplate rotation rates were small (5°/m.y.) for much of its history, when long, bounding transform faults reduced coupling to Nazca plate motion. Some structures of the Bauer microplate boundary, such as deep rift valleys and a broad zone of thrust-faulted lithosphere, are, however, similar to those observed around the smaller, active microplates. Analysis of how the Bauer microplate was captured when coupling to the Pacific plate was reduced invites speculation on why risecrest microplates eventually lose their independence.


annexation Bauer microplate East Pacific Rise Galapagos Rise microplate kinematics plate reconstructions rifting 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Now at Volcano Hazards ProgramU.S. Geological SurveyMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Marine Physical Laboratory, Scripps Institution of OceanographyLa JollaUSA

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