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The North Atlantic basin evolved over a hundred million years, starting with an episode of Triassic rifting, followed by separation of Africa and North America in the Middle Jurassic. The tear spread northward between Iberia and the Grand Banks in the Early Cretaceous, and finally parted the European-Greenland and North American plates in the latest Cretaceous. Several episodes of extension are recognizable. In the south, rifting was followed by ocean opening and passive margin subsidence, whereas extensional tectonics prevailed farther north.

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