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Title Geological evolution of the Caribbean region; a Plate tectonic perspective
Authors James Pindell & Stephen Barrett
Source Dengo, G. and Case, J. E. (eds), The Caribbean Region. Geological Society of America, The Geology of North America, H, 405-432.
Introduction This chapter examines the geologic evolution of the Caribbean region from a plate-tectonic perspective, and is composed of three major parts. First, some primary tectonic constraints on plate-tectonic models of Caribbean evolution are defined and reviewed. These constraints include: (1) the plate kinematic framework: the spatial relationships of the plates through time, derived from an initial reconstruction and the subsequent relative motions of the North American, African, South American, and Farallon plates, which encompass the Caribbean area; and (2) the following plate-tectonic elements: (a) the polarity and tuning of subduction (magmatic activity) of arcs (arcs = magmatic belts), (b) the age of formation (magmatic crystallization) and of emplacement of pieces of oceanic crust preserved in thrust belts, (c) the timing and vergence of thrusting within known Caribbean collision zones, (d) the paleogeographic significance of the Yucatan Basin, Grenada Basin, and Cayman Trough, and (e) the development of the northern and southern Caribbean plate boundary zones. Second, in tabular form, twelve published models of the plate-tectonic evolution of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean are examined by outlining the implications of each for seventeen sub-regions, by highlighting alternate interpretations of the geologic history of each subregion, and by presenting arguments for choosing among the alternatives. Third, a new model of Caribbean evolution is developed by integrating the Caribbean plate tectonic elements, defined earlier, into an accurate plate-kinematic framework. The new model is presented on eight plate-boundary maps with accompanying descriptions (see accompanying plate).This chapter examines the geologic evolution of the Caribbean region from a plate-tectonic perspective, and is composed of three major parts. First, some primary tectonic constraints on plate-tectonic models of Caribbean evolution are defined and reviewed. These constraints include: (1) the plate kinematic framework: the spatial relationships of the plates through time, derived from an initial reconstruction and the subsequent relative motions of the North American, African, South American, and Farallon plates, which encompass the Caribbean area; and (2) the following plate-tectonic elements: (a) the polarity and tuning of subduction (magmatic activity) of arcs (arcs = magmatic belts), (b) the age of formation (magmatic crystallization) and of emplacement of pieces of oceanic crust preserved in thrust belts, (c) the timing and vergence of thrusting within known Caribbean collision zones, (d) the paleogeographic significance of the Yucatan Basin, Grenada Basin, and Cayman Trough, and (e) the development of the northern and southern Caribbean plate boundary zones. Second, in tabular form, twelve published models of the plate-tectonic evolution of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean are examined by outlining the implications of each for seventeen sub-regions, by highlighting alternate interpretations of the geologic history of each subregion, and by presenting arguments for choosing among the alternatives. Third, a new model of Caribbean evolution is developed by integrating the Caribbean plate tectonic elements, defined earlier, into an accurate plate-kinematic framework. The new model is presented on eight plate-boundary maps with accompanying descriptions (see accompanying plate).
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