Using a combination of optical microscopy and X-ray texture goniometry, an integrated microstructural and crystallographic fabric study has been made of quartz mylonites from thrust sheets located beneath, but immediately adjacent to, the Moine thrust in the Assynt and Eriboll regions of NW Scotland. A correlation is established between shape fabric symmetry and pattern of crystallographic preferred orientation, a particularly clear relationship being observed between shape fabric variation and quartz a-axis fabrics.
Coaxial strain paths dominate the internal parts of the thrust sheets and are indicated by quartz c- and a-axis fabrics which are symmetrical with respect to foliation and lineation. Non-coaxial strain paths are indicated within the more intensely deformed quartzites located near the boundaries of the sheets by asymmetrical c- and a-axis fabrics. These kinematic interpretations are supported by microstructural studies. At the Stack of Glencoul in the northern part of the Assynt region, the transition zone between these kinematic (strain path) domains is located at approximately 20 cm beneath the Moine thrust and is marked by a progression from symmetrical cross-girdle c-axis fabrics (30cm beneath the thrust), through asymmetrical cross-girdle c-axis fabrics to asymmetrical single girdle c-axis fabrics (0·5 cm beneath the thrust).
Tectonic models (incorporating processes such as extensional flow, gravity spreading and tectonic loading) which may account for the presence of strain path domains within the thrust sheets are considered, and their compatibility with local thrust sheet geometries assessed.