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Abstract

For more than 100 years, geologists have speculated about the initial steps of the formation of the present Gulf of Mexico basin. A review of the literature, most likely incomplete, uncovered more than 70 publications on the subject by close to 80 authors.

Early workers (Schuchert, 1909; Willis, 1909) considered the Gulf of Mexico to be an ancient feature, a deep-water body in existence since the Precambrian. Willis (in Schuchert, 1935, p. 72) regarded the Gulf as representing “a mass of basalt which was erupted in Pre-Cambrian time…,” a basin “of great antiquity.”

With increased information on the area opinions progressively changed, and from the late 1910s to the early 1930s most contributors to the controversy came to favor a much later beginning for the Gulf of Mexico basin (Dumble, 1918; Miser, 1921; Schuchert, 1923, 1929, 1935; Sellards, 1932; and a number of others). They believed that during most of the Paleozoic a continental landmass or borderland, most commonly referred to as “Llanoria,” occupied the northwestern part of the present Gulf of Mexico basin, from northeastern Mexico to Mississippi, and included a large but undetermined part of the present northwestern Gulf of Mexico (Fig. 1), an idea first implied by Edward Suess (1888) in his celebrated Das A ntlitz der Erde. In the southeastern part of the present gulf, the borderland was thought to have been submerged and covered by a shallow sea; the entire area was regarded as a “neutral area, or better, a slightly negative one,” an “ancient

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