Metamorphic reworking of a high pressure-low temperature mélange along the Motagua fault, Guatemala: A record of Neocomian and Maastrichtian transpressional tectonics

Hannes K. Brueckner*, Hans G. Avé Lallemant, Virginia B. Sisson, George E. Harlow, Sidney R. Hemming, Uwe Martens, Tatsuki Tsujimori, Sorena S. Sorensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


The Guatemala suture zone is a major east-west left-lateral strike slip boundary that separates the North American and Caribbean plates in Guatemala. The Motagua fault, the central active strand of the suture zone, underwent two major collisional events within a system otherwise dominated by strike-slip motion. The first event is recorded by high-pressure/low temperature (HP/LT) eclogites and related rocks that occur within serpentinites both north and south of the Motagua fault. Lawsonite eclogites south of the fault are not significantly retrograded and give 40Ar/39Ar ages of 125-116 Ma and Sm-Nd mineral isochrons of 144-132 Ma. Eclogites north of the fault give similar Sm-Nd isochron ages (131-126 Ma) but otherwise differ in that they are strongly overprinted by a lower pressure assemblage and, along with associated HP/LT rocks, give much younger 40Ar/39Ar ages of 88-55 Ma indicating a later amphibolite facies metamorphic event. We propose therefore that all serpentinite hosted eclogites along the Motagua fault formed at essentially the same time in different parts of a laterally extensive Lower Cretaceous forearc subduction system, but subsequently underwent different histories. The southern assemblages were thrust southwards (present coordinates) immediately after HP metamorphism whereas the northern association was retrograded during a later collision that thrust it northward at ca. 70 Ma. They were subsequently juxtaposed opposite each other by major strike slip motion. This model implies that the HP rocks on opposing sides of the Motagua fault evolved along a plate boundary that underwent both dip slip and strike slip motion throughout the Late Cretaceous as a result of oblique convergence. The juxtaposition of a convergent and strike slip system means that HP/LT rocks within serpentinites can be found at depth along much of the modern Guatemala suture zone and its eastward extension into the northern Caribbean. Both sets of assemblages were exhumed relatively recently by the uplift of mountain ranges on both sides of the fault caused by movement along a restraining bend. Recent exhumation explains the apparently lack of offset of surface outcrops along a major strike slip fault.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-235
Number of pages8
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • HP/LT eclogites
  • oblique collisional tectonics
  • Sm-Nd geochronology
  • strike-slip and subduction zone processes


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