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Abstract

The South Atlantic Ocean evolved after rupture of the São Francisco–Congo–Rio de la Plata–Kalahari cratonic landmass and the Late Proterozoic fold belts. Break-up in the South Atlantic realm developed diachronously: rifting started in the south (Argentina) during the Jurassic and progressed towards the equatorial segment. The central portion was controlled by a rift-resistant cratonic nucleus (the São Francisco–Congo craton) and as a result underwent development of narrow basins; parts controlled by Neoproterozoic fold belts developed wide basins. The final break-up of western Gondwana and the onset of plate divergence were marked by thick wedges of seaward-dipping reflectors, located near the incipient ocean-ridge spreading centre that had already been formed by the time Aptian evaporites were deposited. Subsequently, a few episodes of intraplate tectonic and magmatic activity affected the Santos, Campos and Espírito Santo basins.

Post-break up development of the offshore basins was affected by gravity gliding over the Aptian evaporites. Continental uplift may be invoked as the main cause of salt mobilization, generating prograding clastic wedges that thickened basin-wards and produced a loading effect on the salt basin. Coupled with onshore erosional unloading and the effects of the gravity gliding, this probably resulted in further flexural uplift of the continental margin.

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