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Abstract

The pattern of faulting and fault-related deformation in Cretaceous to Neogene rocks, together with the distribution of Neogene sediments, suggest that Jamaica is the site of two complex, right-stepping restraining bends along the strike-slip plate boundary between the North American and Caribbean plates. Block convergence at the eastern bend between the Plantain Garden and Duanvale fault zones is manifest by topographic uplift (>2 km), rapid erosion, and northwest-southeast shortening of Cretaceous and Paleogene metamorphic, volcanic and sedimentary rocks in the Blue Mountains and Wagwater Belt. Limited data on the age of faulting in Jamaica suggest that deformation and uplift related to bends in the faults probably began in the middle to late Miocene and was roughly contemporaneous with initial strike slip along the eastern extension of the Plaintain Garden fault zone in southern Hispaniola. Uplift and deformation at the western bend is less prominent, and for the most part involves carbonate rocks that are cut by numerous west-facing fault scarps thought to be formed by east-dipping high-angle reverse faults. Both bends appear to have nucleated on northwest-striking normal faults that bounded Paleogene rifts. Maps of historic and recorded earthquakes on Jamaica indicate a close spatial association between the two restraining bends and the largest-magnitude events. In Jamaica, as in other active and ancient strike-slip zones, it is unclear how observed compressional deformation relates to the following three mechanisms: (1) restraining bend development or interaction of two parallel, overstepping strike-slip faults; (2) simple shear adjacent to a single strike-slip fault; or (3) end effects caused by termination of a single strike-slip fault.

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