Crustal structure of the Caribbean–northeastern South America arc-continent collision zone

TitleCrustal structure of the Caribbean–northeastern South America arc-continent collision zone
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsChristeson, GL, Mann, P, Escalona, A, Aitken, TJ
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Keywordsarc-continent collision, Lesser Antilles, SE Caribbean

We present the results of a 568-km-long regional wide-angle seismic profile conducted in the southeastern Caribbean that crosses an active island arc, a remnant arc, two basins possibly floored by oceanic crust, an allochthonous terrane of forearc affinity, and the passive margin of northern South America. The velocity structures of the Late Cretaceous Aves Ridge remnant arc and Miocene and younger Lesser Antilles arc are remarkably similar, which implies that magmatic processes have remained moderately steady over time. Crustal thickness is ∼26 km at the Aves Ridge and ∼24 km at the Lesser Antilles arc. In comparison to the Izu-Bonin and Aleutian arcs, the Lesser Antilles arc is thinner and has no evidence for a lower crustal cumulate layer, which is consistent with the estimated low magma production rates of the Lesser Antilles arc. Crustal thickness beneath the Grenada and Tobago basins is 4–10 km, and the velocity structure suggests that these basins could be floored by oceanic crust. A decrease of ∼1 km/s in average seismic velocity of the upper crust is observed from NW to SE across the North Coast fault zone; we argue that this marks the suture between the far-traveled Caribbean arc and the passive margin of the South American continent. Current strike-slip motion between the Caribbean and South American plates is located ∼30 km to the south, and thus material originally deposited on the South American passive margin has now been transferred to the Caribbean plate.


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