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Title Structure and deformation history of the northern range of Trinidad and adjacent areas
Authors Sam Algar & James Pindell
Source Tectonics, 1993, 12, 814-829
Abstract Conflicting models have been proposed for both the evolution of northern South America and the neotectonics of the south Caribbean plate boundary zone. The Trinidadian portion of the margin is particularly controversial, but surprisingly it has been little studied. We present a structural analysis of Trinidad's Northern Range, pertinent updates of the island's stratigraphy and sedimentology, and new zircon fission track age determinations, and use them to constrain Trinidad's geologic history, and to better understand the controlling tectonic processes. In our interpretation Trinidad's three E-ENE striking ranges, which are separated by late Neogene-Recent depocenters, expose (1) the Northern Range Group, generally greenschist-metamorphosed Upper Jurassic to Cretaceous north facing continental slope sediments of the Northern Range, deposited on the northern South American passive margin 200 to 400 km to the WNW, and (2) the Trinidad Group, Cretaceous-Paleogene shelf slope sediments of the central and southern Trinidad deposited less than 100 km WNW of their present location. A small allochthon composing the Sans Souci Group Cretaceous tholeiitic volcaniclastic, basaltic, and gabbroic rocks (Sans Souci Formation) and sediments (Toco Formation) now in the northeastern Northern Range, has been transported hundreds of kilometers from the west with the Caribbean Plate. Despite earlier references to Cretaceous orogenesis, all deformation in Trinidad is of Cenozoic age. The first deformation in the Northern Range (D1) formed north vergent nappes and induced greenschist metamorphism, probably in the Late Eocene or Oligocene. The nappes developed either by the underthrusting of the Proto-Caribbean crust beneath South America due to convergence between North and South America, or as gravity slides caused by oversteepening induced by this convergence and/or the passage of the Caribbean Plate's peripheral bulge and arrival of its foredeep. Northern Range D2 deformation is south vergent and represents the incorporation of Northern Range metasediments into the Caribbean accretionary prism. The transition to D3 brittle transpressive right-lateral strike-slip faulting is interpreted to be due to the uplift and ESE-ward transpressive emplacement of Northern Range/Caribbean prism rocks onto the South American stepped shelf. This emplacement formed the Miocene transpressive thrust belts and foreland basin in central and southern Trinidad. In the final phase of Northern Range deformation (D4) ~E-W normal faults and shear zones and conjugate NNW-SSE and NE-SW normal faults developed, and displacement on preexisting ~E-W right-lateral strike-slip faults continued. The 11 Ma Northern Range zircon fission track ages suggest rapid uplift from the Late Miocene to Recent. Late Miocene subsidence of the Tobago platform immediately to the north of the Northern Range, and greater than 3 km of normal, down to the north, displacement indicated for the North Coast Fault Zone separating the Northern Range and Tobago platform, leads us to postulate that the rapid uplift of the Northern Range was in response to the northward detachment of the Tobago platform from above the Northern Range, along the north-dipping transtensional North Coast Fault Zone. This Late Miocene change in deformation style can be explained by a change from Caribbean/South American right-lateral transpression to right-lateral strike-slip generally striking 080. This has generally induced a component of extension on pre-existing faults striking at greater than 080, and a component of compression on faults striking at less than 080.
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