Inverted fluvial features in the Aeolis-Zephyria Plana, western Medusae Fossae Formation, Mars: Evidence for post-formation modification

Alexandra Lefort, Devon M. Burr, Ross A. Beyer, Alan D. Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The Aeolis and Zephyria Plana contain the western-most portion of the Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF), an enigmatic and extensive light-toned deposit located in the Martian equatorial region and dated from the Hesperian to Amazonian epochs. This area hosts a large population of sinuous ridges (SRs), interpreted as inverted fluvial features, formed by precipitation, indurated by chemical cementation, buried by subsequent deposition, and finally exhumed. This interpretation of SRs as uniformly fluvial represents a modification to an earlier hypothesis for one particular SR of possible glaciofluvial (i.e. esker) formation. These SRs provide a tool to investigate the degree and character of post-fluvial modification processes in this region. We combined digital terrain models made from Context Camera (CTX) and High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) stereo image pairs with individual data points from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) to estimate relief, cross-sectional profiles, longitudinal profiles and slope directions of selected SRs. Longitudinal profiles of several SRs display undulations with amplitudes of up to order 100 m. While some of the lower amplitude undulations may be due to differential erosion, undulations having amplitudes in excess of SR relief require alternative explanations. Our combined morphologic and topographic analysis suggests that multiple post-flow processes, including compaction of the deposits and tectonic displacements, have modified the original SR profiles. Specification of the type(s) and magnitudes of these modification processes will contribute to understanding both the potential of post-flow modification of fluvial profiles elsewhere on Mars as well as the nature and properties of the MFF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE03007
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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