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Extended Abstract

Although the final stage of formation of the Gulf of Mexico is fairly well constrained, earlier evolution is still debated. The final stage was rotation of Yucatan about a Florida Straits Euler pole that created most of the observed oceanic crust (Pindell and Dewey, 1982). From observations of salt overlying seaward-dipping reflectors (diagnostic of volcanism during the rift to drift transition) in the northeast Gulf of Mexico, we suggest that salt was deposited at the onset of sea floor spreading, which coincides with initiation of the rotational motion of Yucatan. It is important to understand Yucatan motion that preceded this rotation because delineating any presalt play that might exist would be dependent on understanding of depositional systems developed during this early motion of Yucatan. Very little is known about the nature of presalt deposition in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Salt is Callovian or earliest Oxfordian in age, and the next oldest rocks known from the northern Gulf of Mexico are Late Triassic red beds found in what are generally regarded as proximal grabens formed during early rifting. This gap in knowledge, what we refer to as the “50 million year gap,” can potentially be bridged by incorporating analogs with known systems in Mexico and northern South America. There are uncertainties here, however, mostly based on how Mexico and northern South America are palinspastically restored and the fact that these rocks are in a proximal location. In particular, we note that there was a long-lived continental margin arc in Mexico that lasted from the Permian through the Middle Jurassic (Barboza-Gudino et al., 2012). A lot of the rocks of this age seen in Mexico that are linked to Gulf of Mexico rifting are in fact associated with this arc. In this presentation, we will review reconstructions of the region and develop a tectonic model that forms the basis for further understanding of rifting in the Gulf of Mexico.

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