Fracture zones are large, linear zone of irregular bathymetry of the sea floor,
characterized by asymmetric ridges and troughs. Fracture zones are the topographic expression of transform faults, faults with horizontal displacement connecting the ends of an offset in a mid-ocean ridge.
A fracture zone is a linear oceanic feature—often hundreds, even thousands of kilometers long—resulting from the action of offset mid-ocean ridge axis segments. They are a consequence of plate tectonics. Lithospheric plates on either side of an active transform fault move in opposite directions; here, strike-slip activity occurs. Fracture zones extend past the transform faults, away from the ridge axis; seismically inactive (because both plate segments are moving in the same direction), they display evidence of past transform fault activity, primarily in the different ages of the crust on opposite sides of the zone. In actual usage, many transform faults aligned with fracture zones are often loosely referred to as "fracture zones" although technically, they are not.