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Uncovering the secrets of planetary crust formation

Plate tectonics – the movement of Earth's lithosphere – may have been driven originally by the low density of the planet's continental crust. Studies have revealed that this low density is caused by processes that affected the distribution of material throughout the continents. However, gaps remain in our knowledge regarding the characteristics of the crust on other terrestrial planets and how it formed. In particular, could similar physical processes occur on other planets with no plate tectonics? The EU-funded CRUSLID project aims at determining the present-day nature and structure of the crusts and the physical and geological processes leading to crust formation and evolution on stagnant-lid planets.


The team

Valentin Bonnet Gibet worked on the formation of the Martian crust and the Martian dichotomy as a PhD student and post-doc.

Alexandra Le Contellec is PhD student working on magma ascent below craters in the crust of Venus, Mars and the Moon.

Line Colin is a PhD student working on the solidification of the lunar magma ocean.

Madison Borrelli visited our group at ENS Lyon for 5 months from Arizona State University thanks to a Chateaubriand fellowship. She worked on the spreading of Venus pancake domes as part of her PhD.

Kathryn Dodds is a post-doc working on the formation of the lunar crust from a slushy magma ocean.


Congratulations to Valentin Bonnet Gibet who has been awarded an Outstanding Student Presentation Award by the SEDI Section at the AGU fall meeting 2023 for his presentation on the "Formation of Differentiated Rocks on Mars in Absence of Plate Tectonics".

Looking for a PhD on planetary seismicity

Applications are invited for a PhD thesis to join the ERC project CRUSLID based at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France. Read more ...


Dark-floored craters that are filled by lava can help constrain the properties and nature of the crustal plateaus of Venus: read Alexandra Le Contellec's new JGR paper on this subject.

Check out the new JGR paper of Valentin Bonnet Gibet on the positive feedback between crustal thickness and melt extraction that may be at the origin of the Martian dichotomy!

In slushy magma oceans, unstable asymmetric growth of planetary stagnant lid may occur because of the large pressure dependence of the mantle rheology. This instability may have given rise to the lunar dichotomy.

Hierarchical cracks on the floor of Martian and Lunar craters may not have all the same origin: look at our new EPSL paper on this subject.