Abstract

Our studies of the surface structures, seismicity, and gravity anomalies of the Caribbean-South American plate-boundary zone of northeast Venezuela and Trinidad show that the crustal and upper lithospheric structure and kinematics of this zone are complex and differ markedly along strike. We propose a model of the zone's lateral transition from near Trinidad west to Caracas, emphasizing three concepts: (1) the steepening, detachment, and then sinking away of Atlantic oceanic lithosphere that is (was) attached to the northern edge of continental South America; (2) the wedging seaward and imbricate thickening of the northern margin of the continent in the region of the detaching Atlantic slab; the continental wedge overrides the slab and is overridden by terranes attached to the Caribbean plate; and (3) that the structural and kinematic transitions are a consequence of the progressive oblique collision between continental South America and the overriding Caribbean terranes.

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