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BALL, MAHLON, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO

ABSTRACT: Caribbean Plate Interactions

Vector analysis of plate motions, derived from studies of Atlantic magnetic lineations and fracture zone trends, indicates the following relative movements between the Caribbean, North American, and South American Plates. (1) During Early Jurassic to Early Cretaceous, the North American Plate moved 1900 km westward and 900 km northward relative to the South American Plate. A broad zone including the Caribbean region, i.e., the zone between the North and South America Plates, was a site of left-lateral shear and north-south extension. (2) During Early Cretaceous to Late Cretaceous, the North American Mate moved an additional 1200 km westward relative to South America across this zone. (3) During Late Cretaceous to the end of the Eocene, the North American Plate moved 200 km westward an 400 km northward relative to the South American Plate. (4) From the end of the Eocene to near the end of the Miocene, North America converged on South America some 200 km and moved 100 km eastward relative to it.

Through the Mesozoic and earliest Tertiary history of the Caribbean, the region was a shear zone within which left-lateral displacement exceeded 3000 km and north-south extension exceeded 1300 km. In regard to time, 80% of the history of the Caribbean region is one of north-south extension and left-lateral shear. In terms of space, 97% of the shear is left-lateral and the ratio of divergence versus convergence is 7 to 1. Thus, characterizing the Caribbean region, and the Atlantic to its east, as a zone of north-south extension and left-lateral shear, is a fair generalization.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90988©1993 AAPG/SVG International Congress and Exhibition, Caracas, Venezuela, March 14-17, 1993.