The continental interior of Mexico is characterized by a Late Cretaceous–Eocene fold-thrust belt named the Mexican Fold-Thrust Belt, which shows characteristics of an eastward-tapering orogenic wedge. The juxtaposition of the Guerrero terrane to the west of the Mexican Fold-Thrust Belt has motivated many to propose the accretion of this terrane as the cause for the regional shortening in the Mexican continental interior.

The Sierra de los Cuarzos is located in the westernmost Mexican Fold-Thrust Belt, directly to the east of the boundary with the Guerrero terrane. Based on its position, the Sierra de los Cuarzos is key in reconstructing the possible propagation of shortening deformation from the Guerrero terrane suture belt into the Mexican continental interior. Our new paleontologic and K-Ar geochronologic data from the Sierra de los Cuarzos show that shortening in the westernmost Mexican Fold-Thrust Belt started ca. 83 Ma, which is ∼30 m.y. later than the late Aptian age of the Guerrero terrane suture boundary. Therefore, the integration of our new paleontologic and geochronologic determinations with previous data suggests that the Guerrero terrane was already accreted and amalgamated with the Mexican continental interior at the time of the formation of the Mexican Fold-Thrust Belt. In light of this, the shortening structures in the western Mexican Fold-Thrust Belt do not show any in-sequence relationship with the adjacent Guerrero terrane suture belt. Therefore, we favor the idea that the Guerrero terrane suture boundary and the Mexican Fold-Thrust Belt are two distinct orogens that mark two distinct stages of tectonic evolution of the North American Pacific margin.

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