Strike-slip influenced stratigraphic and structural development of the Foula Sandstone Group, Shetland: implications for offshore Devonian basin development on the northern UK continental shelf

T. A. G. Utley, R. E. Holdsworth, G. A. Blackbourn, E. Dempsey, R. A. Strachan, K. J. W. McCaffrey, A. C. Morton, A. F. Bird, R. R. Jones, A. Saßnowski, R. J. Walker

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The island of Foula, located 25 km SW of Shetland, preserves a gently folded, 1.6 km thick sequence of Middle Devonian sandstones spectacularly exposed in kilometre-long cliff sections >350 m high. These rocks unconformably overlie likely Precambrian-age amphibolite facies basement rocks that are intruded by sheeted granites. The onshore succession is similar in age to the nearby Lower Clair Group offshore to the west. New mapping, incorporating the use of drone imagery in the inaccessible cliff sections, uses down-plunge projections to show that growth folding and faulting on Foula were contemporaneous with sedimentation during basin filling. The large-scale structural geometry is consistent with the regional constrictional strain due to the sinistral transtension associated with movements along the Walls Boundary–Great Glen fault zone system during the Mid-Devonian. Detrital zircon provenance studies indicate that the Devonian sequences of Foula (and nearby Melby in western Shetland) show similarities with the Clair Group and Orkney successions. We suggest that NE–SW transtensional fold development contemporaneous with regional subsidence in the Devonian basins of Scotland may be more widespread than previously realized. Large, kilometre-scale folds previously interpreted to be related to Permo-Carboniferous inversion may therefore have initiated earlier in the basin evolution sequence than previously realized.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjgs2022-148
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Geological Society
Issue number3
Early online date27 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2023


  • UKRI
  • NERC
  • NEM00578X/1

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