In the southern Apennines fold and thrust belt, thermal indicators record exhumation of sedimentary units from depths locally in excess of 5 km. The belt is made of allochthonous sedimentary units that overly a 6–8 km thick, carbonate footwall succession. The latter is deformed by reverse faults involving the underlying basement. Therefore, a switch from thin-skinned to thick-skinned thrusting occurred as the Apulian Platform carbonates - and the underlying continental lithosphere - were deformed during the latest shortening stages. Apatite fission track data, with cooling ages ranging between 9.2 ± 1.0 and 1.5 ± 0.8 Ma, indicate that exhumation marks these late tectonic stages, probably initiating with the buttressing of the allochthonous wedge against the western margin of the Apulian Platform. Pliocene-Pleistocene foreland advancing of the allochthonous units exceeds the total amount of slip that could be transferred to the base of the allochthon from the underlying thick-skinned structures. This suggests that emplacement of the allochthon above the western portion of the Apulian Platform carbonates was followed by gravitational readjustments within the allochthonous wedge, coeval - and partly associated with - thick-skinned shortening at depth. The related denudation processes have played a primary role in tectonic exhumation.


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