Abstract

Basement rocks of parts of eastern Panamá include tholeiitic pillow basalt and diabase overlain by sedimentary rocks typical of deep oceanic environments. Both paleontologic and stratigraphic evidence indicate that some of these rocks are of Late Cretaceous age or older. Regional Bouguer anomalies over the basement terrane exceed +120 mgal, indicating that eastern Panamá is a raised block of oceanic crust. Age relations in the Caribbean region apparently preclude an “Atlantic” or single intra-Caribbean origin for eastern Panamá and the southern Caribbean basin, but multiple intra-Caribbean origins of the basaltic basement rocks are permitted by the age data. An in situ origin of the oceanic basement of Panamá at a position which later became a Cenozoic island arc is likewise consistent with the available geologic and geophysical data.

Seismic horizon B″ in the Caribbean is correlative with or overlain by deep-sea sedimentary rocks of Coniacian to Campanian age. This horizon forms the top of the apparent basement of eastern Panamá and, thus, the eastern isthmus is a horstlike block that has been elevated or obducted a minimum of 6 km since Coniacian-Maastrichtian time, partly caused by northeastward underflow of the Pacific plate but possibly related to southwestward movement of the Caribbean plate beneath the isthmus.

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