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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 60 (1976)

Issue: 5. (May)

First Page: 809

Last Page: 878

Title: Continental Margin Off Western Africa: Senegal to Portugal

Author(s): Elazar Uchupi (2), K. O. Emery (2), C. O. Bowin (2), J. D. Phillips (2)


About 22,000 km of continuous seismic-reflection, magnetic, and gravity profiles, 118 radiosonobuoy recordings, 98,000 km of geophysical profiles from previous investigations, 15 deep-sea-drilling logs, and many dredge samples served to reconstruct the history of the continental margin and adjacent deep-ocean floor between Senegal and Portugal. Initial structures of the margin south of Morocco formed by divergence when Africa and North America separated 180 m.y. ago. The margin off western Portugal had a similar origin when the Iberian Peninsula and North America separated about 80 m.y. ago. Between these two divergent segments the area of the Strait of Gibraltar formed by a combination of translation from 180 to 72 m.y. ago and plate convergence from 63 m.y. ago to the p esent, with convergence becoming more intense during the past 10 m.y.

Oldest sedimentary rocks atop basement include an evaporite of Late Triassic to Early Jurassic age. When the apron deposited by upbuilding and outbuilding became thick enough, mobility of the evaporites deformed the overlying sediments especially north of the Canary Islands. Except off Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar and possibly off southern Senegal the sedimentary blanket is dominantly calcareous, reflecting the general lack of fluvial influx. Included is a middle-Late Jurassic algal reef that constitutes the lower continental slope off Morocco.

During Aptian-Cenomanian time the deep ocean off much of northwestern Africa had only sluggish bottom circulation, recorded by organic-rich sediments. A major hiatus in deep-ocean sedimentary rocks and in three prominent sedimentary ridges (off Madeira, near Agadir canyon, and north of Conception bank) probably was caused by temporarily intensified circulation. Tertiary tectonics modified the divergent margin south of Morocco by folding of shelf strata off the western High Atlas, emplacement of the Canary Island Ridge, folding of slope strata off Spanish Sahara, and uplift of the Cape Verde plateau. These orogenies also may have uplifted oceanic basement beneath the upper rise and formed the volcanic seamounts along this ridge.

Maximum modification by Tertiary diastrophism occurred on the margin of translation-convergence near the Strait of Gibraltar. There, the convergence phase caused uplift of Gorringe bank. Plate convergence also deformed sediments atop oceanic basement, aided by the mobility of Triassic-Jurassic evaporites. More recently, probably because of uplift of the Iberian Peninsula during the Pliocene, well-stratified Miocene and younger deposits atop the deformed lower unit slid oceanward away from the peninsula, with the megaslide coming to rest against the Moroccan continental slope. Associated folding also involved the lower deformed sequence.

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