The Acatlán Complex of southern Mexico is a vestige of a Paleozoic Ocean inferred to be either the Cambro-Ordovician Iapetus and/or the Ordovician-Carboniferous Rheic oceans. Ordovician granitoids in the complex have been interpreted as either the products of dehydration melting, arc or rift magmatism, however, the geochemistry of felsic rocks is inconclusive. The geochemistry of a recently discovered, major, Ordovician-earliest Silurian mafic igneous suite associated with these granitoids is critical to defining the tectonic setting of the igneous event, and to paleogeographic reconstructions. Such data from three areas in the Acatlán Complex (Xayacatlán, Patlanoaya, and Cuaulote) document tholeiitic, within-plate characteristics with a source in either primitive mantle or mantle previously modified by subduction-related magmatism possibly combined with crustal contamination. This, combined with their occurrence as a dike swarm intruding rift-passive margin clastic sedimentary rocks, indicates rifting of a continental margin. Mafic dikes at Xayacatlán yielded a concordant U-Pb TIMS zircon age of 442 ± 1 Ma and a 40Ar/39Ar hornblende plateau age of 434 ± 3 Ma. The age of mafic magmatism at other localities is defined by the ages of associated granitoids intruded at ca. 461 Ma and by the age of the youngest detrital zircon in the host rocks: 496 ± 25 Ma at Patlanoaya. Previously published age data suggest that this igneous event may have started earlier at 478 ± 5 Ma (Early Ordovician). Although the life spans of the Iapetus and Rheic oceans overlap during the Ordovician, subduction and collision characterize the former, whereas the latter was in a rift-drift mode. Thus, this Ordovician-earliest Silurian magmatism is more consistent with rifting along the southern margin of the Rheic Ocean. Initiation of rifting at ca. 480 Ma is contemporaneous with separation of peri-Gondwanan terranes, such as Avalonia and Carolinia, from Amazonia-Oaxaquia. Subsequent rifting may be analogous to Mesozoic-Cenozoic western North America where transtensional deformation is related to dispersal of terranes (e.g. Baja California and Cretaceous Baja British Columbia) leading to a gradual collapse of the inboard continental margin.
- Acatlán Complex