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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 65 (1981)

Issue: 7. (July)

First Page: 1358

Last Page: 1358

Title: Late Triassic-Jurassic Paleogeography and Origin of Gulf of Mexico: ABSTRACT

Author(s): Amos Salvador

Article Type: Meeting abstract


A step-by-step reconstruction of the paleogeography of the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding areas suggests that the basic structural and stratigraphic framework of the region was established by events during the Late Triassic and the Jurassic. Cretaceous and Tertiary events only accentuated and modified this framework. During the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic, continental conditions prevailed over most of the southern part of the North American plate. Marine deposition was restricted to parts of western and central Mexico that were covered by embayments of the Pacific Ocean. As the super-continent of Pangea began to crack and break up in the Late Triassic and as the North American plate started to separate from the South American and African plates, tensional grabens beg n to form. They were filled with red beds and volcanic rocks.

It was not until late in the Middle Jurassic (Callovian) that Pacific marine waters began to reach the Gulf of Mexico area across central Mexico. These marine waters flooded intermittently the preexisting grabens and, between floods, evaporated to produce extensive salt deposits (Louann Salt). The salt varied markedly in thickness according to the rate of subsidence in the grabens. Little or no salt was formed in the intervening high areas. During the Late Jurassic, marine waters from the Pacific progressively covered an increasingly large part of the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding areas as a result of continued subsidence, sea-level rise, or both. Connection with the Atlantic, however, was not established until late Kimmeridgian or Tithonian time.

On the basis of these paleogeographic data, it is possible to speculate that in the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic the Yucatan continental block was located roughly 300 km north-northwest of its present position, and that it was a part of the large North American plate. As the North American plate began to drift northwestward, the Yucatan block seems to have been "left behind." The separation of the Yucatan block from the main North American plate probably started in the Late Triassic, continued slowly and sporadically during the Early and Middle Jurassic, and quickened after the formation of the extensive Callovian salt deposits. By the close of the Oxfordian the Yucatan block had reached essentially its present position, and the Gulf of Mexico had been born.

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