Plate-tectonic evolution of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region
A geologic-kinematic model for the evolution of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region is built within a framework provided by a detailed Late Paleozoic (Alleghenian) plate reconstruction and a revised North American (NOAM) and South American (SOAM) relative motion history. From the Middle Jurassic to the Campanian, SOAM migrated east-southeast from NOAM. From the Carapanian to the Eocene. Little or no NOAM-SOAM relative motion occurred, although minor sinistral transpression is suggested. Since the Eocene, minor west-northwest convergence between NOAM and SOAM has occurred along pre-existing fracture zones. Three stages of evolution are recognized which correlate with these phases of relative motion. Stage 1: mainly carbonate shelves fringed the Gulf of Mexico and "Proto-Caribbean" passive rifted margins, during plate separation. Stage 2: the Caribbean Plate (CARIB) progressively entered the NOAM-SOAM gap from the Pacific by subduction of Proto-Caribbean crust beneath the Greater Antilles, Stage 3: CARIB migrated east by 1200 km, subducting Proto-Caribbean crust and forming the Lesser Antilles Arc, Transform faults have dissected the original Greater Antilles Arc, and nappes in the Venezuelan Andes have been emplaced southeastwards onto the northern SOAM margin, diachronously from west to east. Field work done in Dominican Republic, both near Puerto Plata and in the southwest sector, indicates that 1) Cuba and northern and central Hispaniola are parts of one original Greater Antilles arc, 2) this arc collided with the Bahamas in the Late Paleocene=Mid Eocene, and 3) Hispaniola has been assembled by strike-slip juxtaposition of terranes from the west.