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The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, also known as the American Mediterranean, contain examples representative of most of the types of geologic phenomena present in the world's oceans.
Although these water bodies are relatively small and accessible to many research vessels, major geologic problems are still unanswered, in spite of the many data that have been collected. The tectonic complexity of the region apparently does not fit seafloor-spreading ideas. The major tectonic trends and the present position of Cuba, partly sandwiched between the carbonate areas of Florida and Yucatan, strongly influence the different genetic interpretations of the American Mediterranean. The extensive salt diapirism and its influence on the history of a major part of the Gulf of Mexico continental margin, as well as on the knolls and ridges, have resulted in many opinions on the origin of salt and the various mechanisms.
Sedimentologically, major observations can be undertaken, ranging from coastal and sea-level variations, aspects of carbonate deposition and pelagic sedimentation, to origin and structure of submarine canyons and the processes of basin filling by turbidity currents. The part of each basin covered by fan deposits is large, and Holocene deposition is still impressive.
Combination of geologic and geophysical studies in these natural laboratories should be promoted by the various government agencies which have jurisdiction over ocean research.
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