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Abstract

The Cenozoic structural evolution of the northern Gulf of Mexico Basin is controlled by progradation over deforming, largely allochthonous salt structures derived from an underlying autochthonous Jurassic salt. The wide variety of structural styles is due to a combination of (1) original distribution of Jurassic and Mesozoic salt structures, (2) different slope depositional environments during the Cenozoic, and (3) varying degrees of salt withdrawal from allochthonous salt sheets. Tectono-stratigraphic provinces describe regions of contrasting structural styles and ages. Provinces include (1) a contractional foldbelt province, (2) a tabular salt-minibasin province, (3) a Pliocene-Pleistocene detachment province, (4) a salt dome-minibasin province, (5) an Oligocene-Miocene detachment province, (6) a lower Oligocene Vicksburg detachment province, (7) an upper Eocene detachment province, and (8) the Wilcox growth fault province of Paleocene-Eocene age.

Within several tectono-stratigraphic provinces, shale-based detachment systems, dominated by lateral extension, and allochthonous salt-based detachment systems, dominated by subsidence, can be distinguished by geometry, palinspastic reconstructions, and subsidence analysis. Many shale-based detachments are linked downdip to deeper salt-based detachments. Large extensions above detachments are typically balanced by salt withdrawal.

Salt-withdrawal minibasins with flanking salt bodies occur as both isolated structural systems and components of salt-based detachment systems. During progradation, progressive salt withdrawal from tabular salt bodies on the slope formed salt-bounded minibasins which, on the shelf, evolved into minibasins bounded by arcuate growth faults and remnant salt bodies. Associated secondary salt bodies above allochthonous salt evolved from pillows, ridges, and massifs to leaning domes and steep-sided stocks.

Allochthonous salt tongues spread from inclined salt bodies that appear as feeder faults when collapsed. Coalesced salt tongues from multiple feeders formed canopies, which provided subsidence potential for further cycles of salt withdrawal. The Sigsbee escarpment is the bathymetric expression of salt flows that have overridden the abyssal plain tens of kilometers since the Paleogene. The distribution and palinspastic reconstruction of Oligocene-Miocene salt-based detachments and minibasins suggest that a Paleogene salt canopy covering large areas of the present onshore and shelf, may have extended as far as the Sigsbee salt mass.

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