Pseudotachylytes: Rarely generated, rarely preserved or rarely reported?

J. D. Kirkpatrick, Zoe Shipton, C. Persano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Pseudotachylyte is the only fault rock that is known to form exclusively at seismic slip rates, so it is unique in preserving direct evidence of the dynamic processes
in action during earthquakes. It is commonly assumed that pseudotachylyte is
rare, and debate has centered on whether it is rarely generated or commonly generated but rarely preserved. We present field and electron microscope observations of eight new pseudotachylytes from faults in the Sierra Nevada that have previously been the focus of many detailed studies of fault growth and mechanics. These pseudotachylytes range from being abundant and easy to recognize in outcrop to being impossible to identify without microscope observations. Our data show that pseudotachylytes are much more common in the Sierra Nevada than has previously been reported. We suggest that pseudotachylytes may be present within many fault zones but remain unreported primarily due to difficulty in identifying very thin or reworked pseudotachylytes
in the field; and therefore the use of these fault rocks to interpret dynamic
earthquake processes must be revisited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-388
Number of pages7
JournalBulletin of the Seismological Society of America
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • dynamic earthquake processes
  • Pseudotachylyte
  • fault zones


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