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An evaluation of the poorly understood Cenozoic hydrologic history of the American Southwest using combined geological and biological data yields new insights with implications for tectonic evolution. The Mesozoic Cordilleran orogen next to the continental margin of southwestern North America probably formed the continental divide. Mountain building migrated eastward to cause uplift of the Rocky Mountains during the Late Cretaceous to early Tertiary Laramide orogeny. Closed drainage basins that developed between the two mountain belts trapped lake waters containing fish of Atlantic affinity. Oligocene-Miocene tectonic extension fragmented the western mountain belt and created abundant closed basins that gradually filled with...

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