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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 56 (1972)

Issue: 9. (September)

First Page: 1904

Last Page: 1905

Title: Plate Tectonics and Origin of Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico: ABSTRACT

Author(s): J. L. Walper, C. L. Rowett

Article Type: Meeting abstract


Previously published reconstructions of the late Paleozoic "fit" of crustal plates and continents fail to explain many geologic features present in the southwestern U.S., Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. In particular, they fail to consider major geologic and tectonic continuities of Paleozoic age observable in the Southern Appalachians, the Ouachita and Marathon fold belts, the fold belts of southern Mexico and Central America, and the eastern Andean mountain belt of northern South America, as well as the significance of many major transcurrent fault systems or megashears that cross these regions.

With the well-documented joining of Africa-North America as a control for the positioning of South America relative to North America, this report suggests a somewhat different "fit" than any heretofore proposed. Instead of truncating North America in northern Mexico and filling in the Gulf of Mexico with fragments as is most commonly done, this reconstruction wraps Mexico and Central America around the western margin of South America, thus placing in juxtaposition the major tectonic belts of both continents. There is evidence that indicates that the Late Ordovician Taconic orogeny was an arc-continent collision rather than a continent-continent collision as has been

End_Page 1904------------------------------

suggested previously. Similar evidence indicates that the late Paleozoic Ouachita and Marathon orogenies were arc-continent collisions. Correlative periods of deformation for both of these orogenies have been documented from many places in northern and northwestern South America.

The early Paleozoic history of the Cordilleran mobile belt appears to have been independent from that of the eastern mobile belt. In the late Paleozoic, however, these mobile belts seem to have become coupled tectonically to produce regional stresses that were released along several major megashears. In southern and southwestern North America these include the Wichita and Texas megashears; a third megashear is probably present in northern Mexico. Late Paleozoic movement on these fault zones produced numerous basins and uplifts throughout these regions.

Modifications of the model proposed by Malfait and Dinkleman for the origin of the Caribbean region include the opening of a sphenochasm in the Gulf of Honduras, and regional tensional and compressional stresses resulting from the clockwise rotation of North America. The Gulf of Mexico and the present dislocated positions of the Ouachita and Marathon fold belts are the result of an opening sphenochasm under the present Mississippi embayment and the westward displacement of the Ouachita and Marathon fold belts by left lateral movement on the Wichita and Texas megashears.

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