Morphology, magnetic and seismic properties, and the geology of the sea-floor and adjacent continent indicate that the area west of Iberia and Morocco is a deformed passive continental margin. Formation of this margin is envisaged as having proceeded through a doming and rifting phase, whereby thinned continental fragments became detached from the continent and each other to form a wide zone with geophysical characteristics intermediate between those of the continent and those of the ocean. A wedge-shaped basin opened between Iberia and some of the larger detached continental fragments, the Madeira—Tore Rise and Galicia Bank. The opening of this basin and of the Bay of Biscay in Late Jurassic—Early Cretaceous time is a direct consequence of the counter-clockwise rotation of Iberia between relatively stable Europe and eastward-moving Africa. During the Tertiary the continental margin became compressed in the north—south direction and pieces of the sea-floor were thrust up and over each other to form the predominantly northeast oriented Horseshoe Seamounts. At the same time left-lateral shears developed in the margin between then northward-moving Africa and Iberia and the eastward-spreading Atlantic. Massive outpourings of Late Tertiary to Recent lavas along some of these shears are responsible for the ultimate shape of the Atlantic margins of northwest Africa and Iberia
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