ABSTRACT The formation of the “expansion breccia” observed in the Lower Cretaceous Maiolica limestone in the Umbria-Marches region of Italy is attributable to a fluid-assisted brecciation process that occurred during the late Miocene exhumation of the Northern Apennines. The hydrothermal fluids probably originated as brine solutions trapped in the Burano anhydrite while it was in a plastic state. The migration of the Burano from the plastic to the brittle domain during unroofing resulted in liberation and injection of over-pressured hydrothermal fluids into the overlying limestone, causing hydraulic fracturing. Mapping of breccia morphology along a 400-m transect showed structures produced by different flow regimes, with chaotic and mosaic breccia characterizing the core parts of the section and mineral-filled fractures and veins in the margins. Based on the clast size in the chaotic breccia, the estimated velocities for fluidizing the aggregates of clasts and sustaining the clasts in suspension are, respectively, 15 cm/s and 65 cm/s. Crack growth was probably the main mechanism for the fragmentation of the limestone. Explosion fracturing patterns were only sporadically observed in the breccia, indicating substantial heat loss of the over-pressured fluids during their ascent to the Earth’s surface.

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