Gaps, tears and seismic anisotropy around the subducting slabs of the Antilles

David Schlaphorst, J-Michael Kendall, Brian Baptie, Joan L. Latchman, Steve Tait

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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Seismic anisotropy in and beneath the subducting slabs of the Antilles is investigated using observations of shear-wave splitting. We use a combination of teleseismic and local events recorded at three-component broadband seismic stations on every major island in the area to map anisotropy in the crust, the mantle wedge and the slab/sub-slab mantle. To date this is the most comprehensive study of anisotropy in this region, involving 52 stations from 8 seismic networks. Local event delay times (0.21 ± 0.12 s) do not increase with depth, indicating a crustal origin in anisotropy and an isotropic mantle wedge. Teleseismic delay times are much larger (1.34 ± 0.47 s), with fast shear-wave polarisations that are predominantly parallel to trend of the arc. These observations can be interpreted three ways: (1) the presence of pre-existing anisotropy in the subducting slab; (2) anisotropy due to sub-slab mantle flow around the eastern margin of the nearly stationary Caribbean plate; (3) some combination of both mechanisms. However, there are two notable variations in the trench-parallel pattern of anisotropy — trench-perpendicular alignment is observed in narrow regions east of Puerto Rico and south of Martinique. These observations support previously proposed ideas of eastward sublithospheric mantle flow through gaps in the slab. Furthermore, the pattern of anisotropy south of Martinique, near Saint Lucia is consistent with a previously proposed location for the boundary between the North and South American plates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-78
Number of pages14
Early online date5 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2017


  • Anisotropy
  • Subduction zone
  • Lesser Antilles


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