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New K-feldspar 40Ar/39Ar and apatite fission-track thermochronological data from the crystalline basement of the western Gulf of Mexico (basement core samples from Tamaulipas Arch, Tuxpan, and Jalapa–Santa Ana highs) and K-feldspar 40Ar/39Ar from field samples of the Chiapas Massif in southern Mexico provide valuable information on the tectonic history of the region, namely, the rifting and postrifting stages of evolution in the Gulf of Mexico. The onset of rifting was probably as early as ca. 216 Ma and was characterized by extensional faulting that led to cooling of the basement footwall blocks by tectonic unroofing. The Tamaulipas Arch and the Jalapa–Santa Ana High were unroofed and cooled until ca. 160 Ma, whereas rocks from the Chiapas Massif were probably affected only until ca. 180 Ma. The thermochronological data suggest that the Tamaulipas Arch and the Chiapas Massif may have been footwalls to low-angle detachments prior to ca. 180 Ma. By ca. 180 Ma, the Chiapas Massif was arguably attached to Yucatán. Rotation of the Yucatán block (and Chiapas Massif) probably started at ca. 167 Ma and unroofed (exhumed) the Tamaulipas Arch very quickly until 155 Ma, when it was unconformably covered by Kimmeridgian sediments along its flanks. The Tamaulipas Arch was progressively buried until the Eocene (ca. 40 Ma), when it was uplifted, and a portion of its sedimentary cover was eroded. A second pulse of uplift occurred in the late Miocene. Our thermochronological data also show that there are along-strike variations in the vertical movements experienced by the Tamaulipas Arch since the Jurassic. This can have important implications for oil maturation of the source rocks in the region, as there might be zones that remained within the oil window for significant amounts of time.

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