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Fifty Years of the Wilson Cycle Concept in Plate Tectonics

Product Code: SP470
Series: GSL Special Publications - print copy
Author/Editor: Edited by R.W. Wilson, G.A. Houseman, K.J.W. McCaffrey, A.G. Doré and S.J.H. Buiter
Publication Date: 11 November 2019
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Special Publication 470

Fifty years ago, Tuzo Wilson published his paper asking `Did the Atlantic close and then re-open?’. This led to the `Wilson Cycle’ concept in which the repeated opening and closing of ocean basins along old orogenic belts is a key process in the assembly and breakup of supercontinents. The Wilson Cycle underlies much of what we know about the geological evolution of the Earth and its lithosphere, and will no doubt continue to be developed as we gain more understanding of the physical processes that control mantle convection, plate tectonics, and as more data become available from currently less accessible regions.
This volume includes both thematic and review papers covering various aspects of the Wilson Cycle concept. Thematic sections include: (1) the Classic Wilson v. Supercontinent Cycles, (2) Mantle Dynamics in the Wilson Cycle, (3) Tectonic Inheritance in the Lithosphere, (4) Revisiting Tuzo’s question on the Atlantic, (5) Opening and Closing of Oceans, and (6) Cratonic Basins and their place in the Wilson Cycle.

Cover image: Steeply dipping basement fabrics of the Canisp Shear Zone, Achmelvich Bay, Scotland. Originally formed during the Neoarchean, the shear zone has since been reworked during multiple reactivation events during the Proterozoic. Photograph by Ken McCaffrey

Published online 24/10/2019. Print copies available from 11/11/2019.

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Type: Book
Ten Digit ISBN:
Thirteen Digit ISBN: 9781786203830
Publisher: GSL
Binding: Hardback
Pages: 490
Weight: 1.1 kg


Wilson, R.W., Houseman, G.A., Buiter, S.J.H., McCaffrey, K.J.W. and Doré, A.G. – Fifty years of the Wilson Cycle Concept in Plate Tectonics: An Overview

The “Classic” Wilson vs Supercontinent Cycles

Dalziel, I.W.D. & Dewey, J.F. – The classic Wilson cycle revisited

Pastor-Galán, D., Nance, R.D., Murphy, J.B. and Spencer, C.J. – Supercontinents: myths, mysteries, and milestones

Nance, R.D. and Murphy, J.B. – Supercontinents and the case for Pannotia

Mantle Dynamics in the Wilson Cycle

Heron, P.J. – Mantle plumes and mantle dynamics in the Wilson cycle

Tectonic Inheritance in the Lithosphere

Şengör, A. M. C., Lom, N. and Sağdıç, N.G. – Tectonic inheritance, structure reactivation and lithospheric strength: the relevance of geological history

Heron, P.J., Pysklywec, R.N. and Stephenson, R. – Exploring the theory of plate tectonics: the role of mantle lithosphere structure

Chenin, P., Picazo, S., Jammes, S., Manatschal, G., Müntener, O. and Karner, G. – Potential role of lithospheric mantle composition in the Wilson cycle: a North Atlantic perspective

Lima, R.D., Hayman, N.W. and Miranda, E. – Rheological inheritance: lessons from the Death Valley region, US Basin and Range Province

Scisciani, V., Patruno, S., Tavarnelli, E., Calamita, F., Pace, P. and Iacopini, D. – Multi-phase reactivations and inversions of Paleozoic–Mesozoic extensional basins during the Wilson cycle: case studies from the North Sea (UK) and the Northern Apennines (Italy)

Revisiting Tuzo’s question on the Atlantic

Ady, B.E. and Whittaker, R.C. – Examining the influence of tectonic inheritance on the evolution of the North Atlantic using a palinspastic deformable plate reconstruction

Murphy, J.B., Nance, R.D., Keppie, J.D. and Dostal, J. – Role of Avalonia in the development of tectonic paradigms

Waldron, J.W.F., Schofield, D.I. and Murphy, J.B. – Diachronous Paleozoic accretion of peri-Gondwanan terranes at the Laurentian margin

White, S. E. and Waldron, J W.F. – Inversion of Taconian extensional structures during Paleozoic orogenesis in western Newfoundland

Thomas, W.A. – Tectonic inheritance at multiple scales during more than two complete Wilson cycles recorded in eastern North America

A. C. Alexander, R. K. Shail and B. E. Leveridge – Late Paleozoic extensional reactivation of the Rheic–Rhenohercynian suture zone in SW England, the English Channel and Western Approaches

Opening and closing of Oceans

Lundin, E.R. and Doré, A. G. – Non-Wilsonian break-up predisposed by transforms: examples from the North Atlantic and Arctic

Schiffer, C., Peace, A., Phethean, J., Gernigon, L., McCaffrey, K., Petersen, K.D. and Foulger, G.  – The Jan Mayen microplate complex and the Wilson cycle

Hall, R. – The subduction initiation stage of the Wilson cycle

Beaussier, S.J., Gerya, T.V. and Burg, J-P. – 3D numerical modelling of the Wilson cycle: structural inheritance of alternating subduction polarity

Cratonic Basins and their place in the Wilson Cycle

Daly, M. C., Tozer, B. and Watts, A. B. – Cratonic basins and the Wilson cycle: a perspective from the Parnaíba Basin, Brazil


Mark Griffin

The volume provides an excellent synthesis of the historical context and current research efforts within the field. All contributions are well written and edited, concisely laid out with clear and appropriate figures, photographs and data tables...A recommended read and authoritative reference work

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