The Appalachian Orogen is divided into five broad zones based on stratigraphic and structural contrasts between Cambrian–Ordovician and older rocks. From west to east, these are the Humber, Dunnage, Gander, Avalon, and Meguma Zones.The westerly three zones fit present models for the development of the orogen through the generation and destruction of a late Precambrian – Early Paleozoic Iapetus Ocean. Thus, the Humber Zone records the development and destruction on an Atlantic-type continental margin, i.e., the ancient continental margin of Eastern North America that lay to the west of Iapetus; the Dunnage Zone represents vestiges of Iapetus with island arc sequences and mélanges built upon oceanic crust; and the Gander Zone records the development and destruction of a continental margin, at least in places of Andean type, that lay to the east of Iapetus.The Precambrian development of the Avalon Zone relates either to rifting and the initiation of Iapetus or to subduction and a cycle that preceded the opening of Iapetus. During the Cambrian Period, the Avalon Zone was a stable platform or marine shelf.Cambrian–Ordovician rocks of the Meguma Zone represent either a remnant of the continental embankment of ancient Northwest Africa or the marine fill of a graben developed within the Avalon Zone.Silurian and younger rocks of the Appalachian Orogen are mixed marine and terrestrial deposits that are unrelated to the earlier Paleozoic zonation of the system. Silurian and later development of the orogen is viewed as the history of deposition and deformation in successor basins that formed across the already destroyed margins and oceanic tract of Iapetus.

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