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Sandstone petrography, detrital zircon geochronology, and sedimentology of Lower Cretaceous to Paleocene strata in the Cuicateco terrane of southern Mexico indicate an evolution from extensional basin formation to foreland basin development. The Early Cretaceous extensional basin is characterized by deposition of deep-marine fans and channels, which were mainly sourced from Mesoproterozoic and Permian crystalline rocks of the western shoulder of the rift basin. Some submarine fans, especially in the northern Cuicateco terrane, record an additional source in the Early Cretaceous (ca. 130 Ma) continental arc. The fans were fed by fluvial systems in updip parts of the extensional basin system. The transition from middle Cretaceous tectonic quiescence to Late Cretaceous shortening is recorded by the Turonian–Coniacian Tecamalucan Formation. The Tecamalucan Formation is interpreted as pre-orogenic deposits that represent submarine-fan deposits sourced from Aptian–Albian carbonate platform and pre-Mesozoic basement. The foreland basin in the Cuicateco terrane was established by the Maastrichtian, when foredeep strata of the Méndez Formation were deposited in the Cuicateco terrane, Veracruz basin, and across the western Gulf of Mexico, from Tampico to Tabasco. In the Zongolica region, these strata were derived from a contemporaneous volcanic arc (100–65 Ma) located to the west of the basin, the accreted Guerrero terrane (145–120 Ma), and the fold belt itself. By the Paleocene, sediments were transported to the foreland basin by drainages sourced in southwestern Mexico, such as the Late Cretaceous magmatic rocks of the Sierra Madre del Sur, and the Chortis block.

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