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Alternative fits of the continents around the future site of the Caribbean about 200 Ma ago and alternative relative motions since then of North and South America and of Africa with respect to each other allow a wealth of information, including data tabulated here on the distribution of rift systems; early ocean floor; obducted ocean floor fragments and dated plutons to be assessed in relation to a history of Caribbean development.

After an early rift phase, the Gulf of Mexico formed by divergence mainly before the Caribbean itself. Convergence on what are now the northern and southern Caribbean margins during the Cretaceous produced arc-systems and carried the present Caribbean ocean floor, which represents an oceanic plateau, out of the Pacific. Cenozoic convergence in the Lesser Antilles and Central America has been contemporary with more than 1000 km of roughly eastward motion, distributed in wide plate boundary zones, of the Caribbean with respect to both North and South America. Moderate internal deformation of the Caribbean plate is perhaps attributable to its oceanic plateau character because it behaves mechanically in a way that is intermediate between that of normal ocean floor and continent. Although numerous problems remain in Caribbean geology, a framework into which many of them can be accommodated is beginning to emerge.

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