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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 86, No. 9 (September 2002), P. 1659-1671.

Copyright ©2002. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Late orogenic strike-slip faulting and escape tectonics in frontal Dinarides-Hellenides, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Albania, and Greece

Frank J. Picha1

1International Petroleum Consultant, 650 New Haven Court, Walnut Creek, California, 94598; email: [email protected]


Frank J. Picha received his M.S. degree (1955) and Ph.D. (1963) in geology from Charles University in Prague and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin (1969-1970). From 1955 to 1989 he worked for the Geological Survey of Czechoslovakia, and in 1971-1976 he taught at Kuwait University in Kuwait. In 1980 he joined Gulf Oil and, in 1985, Chevron, from which he retired in 1999. Presently he works as a consultant. His assignments included regional geology and exploration in Europe, the Middle East, North America, and the former Soviet Union. He was an AAPG Distinguished Lecturer in 1989-1990 and 1999-2000.


This article is mainly based on the results of my work on a project performed by Chevron in the Adriatic region. The permission to publish some results is gratefully acknowledged. I am also indebted to D. Drechsler of Naftaplyn Zagreb for providing literature on the Croatian structural geology. The quality of the article significantly benefited from critical reviews by J. R. Underhill and P. K. Webb.


The frontal zone of the Dinarides and its foreland are characterized by the presence of major late orogenic northwest-southeast faults trending parallel to and locally dissecting the leading edge of the thin-skinned thrust belt. On the basis of their geometry and regional distribution, these structures are interpreted as right-lateral strike-slip faults and are related to the formation of en echelon compres sional structures in the Split-Dubrovnik area of the central Adriatic region and to the opening of the post-Messinian pull-apart Albanian foredeep (South Adriatic Basin) in the Pliocene-Holocene. These strike-slip faults represent the last stage of the mountain-building process in the Pliocene and Holocene, when the forelandward prop agation of the Dinaric thrust belt was inhibited by stacking of thrust sheets and by overall thickening of the colliding continental crust. In that respect, the Dinaric side of the Apulia (Adria) differs from the Apenninic side, where the thin-skinned thrusting progressed normally toward the foreland until the Pliocene.

On a regional scale, these northwest-southeast-trending strike-slip faults in the frontal Dinarides and their apparent continuation to the Hellenides of western Greece, as well as the dextral Vardar fault system, indicate the existence of escape tectonics in the Di naric-Hellenic region. During the last stage of orogeny, the strike-slip faults provided a means of tectonic transport from the collision zone of Apulia with Europe toward the subduction zone of the Hellenic Trench. In southern Greece, the southeastward-moving Dinaric-Hellenic blocks apparently interfered with the westward-moving Anatolian plate and deflected it southwestward.

The Albanian foredeep, in terms of tectonic setting, resembles the pull-apart Vienna basin, which formed within the attenuated southwest-northeast-trending transfer zone of the West Carpathi ans during the last stages of the Alpine orogeny.

The late orogenic strike-slip faulting may have breached seals and thus negatively affected the hydrocarbon potential of the Dinaric-Hellenic side of the peri-Adriatic region, as contrasted with that of the more prolific Apenninic side, which was not significantly disrupted by the late orogenic strike-slip faulting.

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