The southern margin of the Caribbean Plate in Venezuela: tectono-magmatic setting of the ophiolitic units and kinematic evolution

Giuseppe Giunta*, Luigi Beccaluva, Massimo Coltorti, Franca Siena, Carmela Vaccaro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


The southern Caribbean Plate margin in Venezuela consists of a W-E elongated deformed belt, composed of several tectonic units dismembered along the northern part of the South America continental Plate since the Late Cretaceous. The present review, based on petrology and tectono-magmatic significance of each unit, makes it possible to define the main geotectonic elements and to reconstruct the paleogeographic domains from Late Jurassic to Tertiary: (a) Mid-Ocean Ridge Basalt (MORB) proto-Caribbean oceanic basin (Loma de Hierro Unit); (b) oceanic plateau (Dutch and Venezuelan Islands basement); (c) rifted continental margin (Cordillera de La Costa and Caucagua-El Tinaco Units) with Within Plate Tholeiitic (WPTh) magmatism; (d) an intra-oceanic subduction zone represented by Island Arc Tholeiitic (IAT) magmatism (Villa de Cura and Dos Hermanas Units) of Early Cretaceous age; (e) an Early Cretaceous ocean-continent subduction trench filled by melange (Franja Costera); (f) a new intra-oceanic subduction zone, represented by the tonalitic arc magmatism of Late Cretaceous age (Dutch and Venezuelan Islands). Regional tectonic constraints and coherent kinematic reconstruction suggest an original "near-Mid America" location of the Jurassic-Cretaceous "proto-Caribbean" oceanic realm. From Early to Late Cretaceous one sub-continental subduction with melanges (Franja Costera Unit) and two main stages of intra-oceanic arc magmatism are recorded in the so-called "eo-Caribbean" phases. The first consists of generally metamorphosed and deformed volcano-plutonic sequences with IAT affinity (Villa de Cura and Dos Hermanas Units), probably in relation to a southeastward-dipping subduction. The second is mainly represented by generally unmetamorphosed tonalitic intrusives cutting the oceanic plateau in the Dutch and Venezuelan Islands, and related to the new intra-oceanic subduction with reverse lithospheric sinking. The latter probably marked the onset of the Aves/Lesser Antilles are system in the Late Cretaceous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-40
Number of pages22
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Caribbean Plate
  • Geodynamic evolution
  • Oceanic plateau
  • Ophiolites
  • Tectono-magmatic settings
  • Venezuela


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