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ABSTRACT

The Gulf of Mexico is best understood as a subsidiary basin to the Atlantic, resulting from breakup of Pangea. The rifting process and stratigraphy preceding opening of the gulf are, however, not fully understood. We present new stratigraphic, sedimentologic, and provenance data for the Todos Santos Formation (now Todos Santos Group) in southern Mexico. The new data support a two-stage model for rifting in the Gulf of Mexico. Field and analytical evidence demonstrate that strata assigned to the Todos Santos Group in Mexico belong to two unrelated successions that were juxtaposed after rotation of the Yucatán block. An Upper Triassic fluvial siliciclastic succession in the western Veracruz basin is intruded by the San Juan del Río pluton (194 Ma, U-Pb) along the Valle Nacional fault. We refer to this succession as the Valle Nacional formation (informal) of the Todos Santos Group, and correlate it with El Alamar Formation of northeast Mexico and the Eagle Mills Formation of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Triassic red beds register an early rifting phase in western equatorial Pangea. Sandstone composition indicates that the Valle Nacional formation is mostly arkoses derived from multiple sources. Paleocurrent indicators in fluvial strata of the Valle Nacional formation are S-SW directed, but restoration of paleomagnetically determined counterclockwise rotation indicates a W-SW–flowing fluvial system. Triassic rifting in the Valle Nacional formation and the Central Cordillera of Colombia Triassic extensional event, the record of which is preserved in midcrustal levels, may represent conjugate margins. The Early–Middle Jurassic Nazas continental volcanic arc predated the Jurassic rifting phase that led to opening of the gulf. A record of arc magmatism is present in eastern Mexico underlying Middle Jurassic synrift successions, and it is present in La Boca and Cahuasas formations in the Sierra Madre Oriental and La Silla Formation north of the Chiapas Massif. These units have a similar age range between ca. 195 and 170 Ma. Arc magmatism in eastern Mexico is correlated with the Jurassic Cordilleran arc of Sonora, California, and Arizona, as well as the Jurassic arc of the Central Cordillera of Colombia. La Boca and La Silla units record intra-arc extension driven by slab rollback. The Jurassic rifting phase is recorded in the Jiquipilas formation of the Todos Santos Group and is younger than ca. 170 Ma, based on young zircon ages at multiple locations. The informal El Diamante member of the Jiquipilas formation records the maximum displacement rift stage (rift climax). Coarse-grained, pebbly, arkosic sandstones with thin siltstone intercalations and thick conglomerate packages of the Jericó member of the Jiquipilas formation are interpreted as deposits of a high-gradient, axial rift fluvial system fed by transverse alluvial fans. These rivers flowed north to northeast (restored for ~35° rotation of Yucatán). The Concordia member of the Jiquipilas formation records the postrift stage. Thick synrift successions are preserved in the subsurface in the Tampico-Misantla basin, but they cannot be easily assigned to the Triassic or the Jurassic rifting stages because of insufficient study. The Todos Santos Group at its type locality in Guatemala marks the base of the Lower Cretaceous transgression. Overall, three regional extensional events are recognized in the western Gulf of Mexico Mesozoic margin. These include Upper Triassic early rifting, an extensional continental arc, and Middle Jurassic main rifting events that culminated with rotation of Yucatán and formation of oceanic crust in the gulf.

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