2016: The geology of Cuba: A brief overview and synthesis

The geology of Cuba: A brief overview and synthesis


Cuba is the largest island in the Greater Antilles, and its geology records three important episodes: (1) the Jurassic breakup of North and South America (Pangea) and associated passive margin and oceanic sedimentary and magmatic evolution; (2) the sedimentary, magmatic, and metamorphic evolution of an intra-oceanic Cretaceous-Paleogene ophiolite-arc complex; and (3) the Paleogene “soft collision” and transfer of the NW Caribbean plate (and Cuba) to the North American plate. Thick sequences of Jurassic-Cretaceous strata (conglomerates, sandstones, limestones, dolo­stones, shales) and interlayered basaltic rocks characterize passive margin sequences preserved in the Guaniguanico terrane (western Cuba, related to the Mayan passive margin and the Gulf of Mexico) and the Bahamas Platform borderlands (north of Cuba). Passive margin deposition ceased in latest Cretaceous time, when increasing relief of accreted (overriding) oceanic arc and ophiolite complexes shed coarse sediments (olistostrome and flysch), followed by carbonate deposition. Fragments of the intervening oceanic lithosphere (Proto-Caribbean, connected to the Central Atlantic) and fore- and back-arc oceanic lithosphere (Caribbean, of Pacific origin) occur as tectonic fragments detached from the ophiolitic units, including serpentinized harzburgites and dunites, banded and isotropic gabbros, basalts (tholeiitic and fore-arc basalts, locally with boninites) and Late Jurassic (Tithonian) through Late Cretaceous (Coniacian and younger) oceanic sediments. Arc activity in the Cuban segment of the Greater Antilles produced sedimentary, volcanic, and plutonic rocks during Cretaceous times (ca. 135–70 Ma). A new arc developed in eastern Cuba during Paleocene–middle Eocene times. Cuban arc sequences include island-arc tholeiitic, calcalkaline, and alkaline bimodal suites of volcanic and plutonic rocks. Remnants of Proto-Caribbean oceanic lithosphere occur as exhumed mélange-bearing eclogite-, blueschist-, and garnet-amphibolite-facies tectonic blocks (oldest age ca. 120 Ma) within a serpentinite matrix intercalated with, or at the base of, the overthrusted ophiolitic bodies. Cuban Cretaceous arc magmatic activity ended due to the subduction of Proto-Caribbean passive margin sequences of the Caribeana terrane, an offshore protuberance of Yucatan. This event formed strongly deformed high-pressure meta­sedimentary and metaigneous rocks at ca. 70 Ma, when the Caribbean plate began to collide with North America. The collision, which included overriding of the ophiolitic and arc units over both subducted and unsubducted passive margin sequences, also produced synorogenic basins and filled them, a process that continued until ca. 40 Ma. This foldbelt was succeeded by local uplift and subsidence to form late Eocene–Recent unconformable post-orogenic continental basins.



To Cite this article: Iturralde-Vinent, M.A., García-Casco, A., Rojas-Agramonte, Y., Proenza, J.A., Murphy, J.B. and Stern., R.J (2016): The geology of Cuba: A brief overview and synthesis. GSA Today, 26(10), 4-10.

DOI: 10.1130/GSATG296A.1

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