Mesozoic interaction of the Kula plate and the western margin of north america

G. W. Brass, B. W. Mattes, R. P. Reid, J. M. Whitman

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Abstract

Oceanic crust west of North America at the beginning of the Jurassic belonged to the Kula plate. The development of the western margin of North America since the Jurassic reflects interaction with the Kula plate, the Kula-Farallon spreading center and the Farallon plate. The Kula plate ceased to exist in the Paleocene and later developments were caused by interaction of the Farallon plate and, subsequently, collision with the East Pacific Rise. At the beginning of the Jurassic, when spreading between North and South America began, the Kula-Farallon-Pacific triple junction moved to the north relative to North America, and the eastern end of the Kula-Farallon spreading center swept northwards along the continental margin. During the Paleocene, Kula-Pacific spreading ceased and the Kula plate fused to the Pacific plate. Throughout the Mesozoic, subduction of the Kula plate took place along the Alaskan continental margin. When the Kula plate joined the Pacific plate a new subduction zone formed along the line of the present Aleutian chain. Wrangellia and Stikinia, anomalous terrains in Alaska and northwestern Canada respectively, were emplaced by transport on the Kula plate from lower latitudes. Hypotheses which require transport of these plates in the Mesozoic from the "far reaches of the Pacific" ignore the problem of transport across either the Kula-Pacific or Kula-Farallon spreading centers. The interaction of the Kula plate and western North America throughout the Jurassic and the Cretaceous should result in emplacement of these terrains by motion oblique to the continental margin. Tethyan faunas in Stikinia must come from the western end of Tethys between North and South America, not the Indonesian region at the eastern end of Tethys. As the northeastern end of the Kula-Farallon ridge moved northward, the sense of motion changed from right lateral shear between the Kula and North American plates to collision or left lateral shear between the Farallon and North American plates. Left lateral shear along zones analogous to the Mojave-Sonora megashear may have been the means by which anomalous terrains were transported to the southeast into the gap between North and South America forming present day Central America. Such a model overcomes the overlap difficulties suffered in previous attempts to reconstruct the Mesozoic paleogeography of Central America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-239
Number of pages9
JournalTectonophysics
Volume99
Issue number2-4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1983

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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