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Regional Transect Across the Western Caribbean: Structural Styles and Restoration of Late Cretaceous to Cenozoic Deformation


The interaction of tectonic elements such as island arcs, continental and a large oceanic plateau led to a complex deformation history of the western Caribbean. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the structural styles and depositional controls associated with late Cretaceous-Cenozoic deformational events. We present a regional NW-SE transect from the Cayman trough to the eastern Perija range of northern Colombia based on series of 2D regional seismic lines (∼2000 km), published geological maps, potential field data and PaleoGis plate reconstructions. Different structural provinces defined from NW to SW include: 1) Cayman trough-Honduras borderlands, a transtensional plate boundary that accommodates the deformation by strike-slip faulting and local normal faulting which created late Eocene-Recent depocenters with ∼5-8 % of extension; 2) Nicaraguan Rise that shows continental Paleocene-Eocene deposits associated with piggy-back and sagging after a Late Cretaceous convergent phase, and little-deformed Miocene-recent carbonate and clastic shelf deposits (< 2 % of extension); 3) Colombian basin including Middle Miocene to Early Cretaceous depocenters and carbonate buildups controlled by faulted blocks and irregularities at the top of the Caribbean Large Igneous Province (CLIP) with a gentle extensional deformation of ∼1%; Upper Miocene to recent undeformed deposits would represent a sag period of subsidence; 4) South Caribbean deformed belt including an accretionary prism produced by the subduction of the Caribbean Oceanic plateau beneath the South American plate which deformed the Cenozoic section (∼20 – 30% of shortening) and produced accommodation space for Late Miocene-recent piggy-back deposits; 5) Santa Marta massif, an 5-km-high topographic range that includes three lithological metamorphic belts intruded by Jurassic-Early Cretaceous and Eocene plutonic bodies exhumed since Paleocene time; 6) Perija thrust belt, a regional NE-SW fold-belt with ∼8-15% of shortening including high-angle inverted and strike-slip faults. These provinces and their contrasting structural styles are related to regional crustal blocks. The PaleoGis tool is used to visualize how the late Cretaceous- Cenozoic deformation events are related to regional plate kinematics.