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Evolution of Southern Caribbean Plate Boundary, Vicinity of Trinidad and Tobago: Discussion! R. Speed,? R. Russo,? J. Weber,? and K. C. Rowley> Robertson and Burke (1989) concluded from studies of rocks in Trinidad and of seismic reflection sections in the marine shelf north of Trinidad that Carib- bean-South American plite motions are taken up in a broad east-west-trending boundary zone by right-later al strike slip (RLSS) with zero obliquity (Figure 1). From the same information, they also claimed that the active RLSS Fl Pilar fault of eastern Venezuela continues east through Trinidad (Figure 1), Many of their data and interpretations are in error or in question, and neither assertion can be supported ELPILAR FAULT The El Pilar fault zone is an active east-west-striking RISS zone of faults in eastern Venezuela from the Paria peninsula west (Figure 1) (Metz, 1968; Vierbuchen 1984). At issue is whether or not the El Pilar fault zone continues as a RLSS zone east of Paria, Speed (1985) argued that the EI Pilar fault zone ends in Paria at a tip that is propagating east at about 1 cm/yr. In contrast, Robertson and Burke (1989) concluded on the basis of structures in slightly deformed Pleistocene sediments that crop out ina 1 km length on the banks of the Aripo River at the foot of the Northern Range in Trinidad (Figure 1) that the fault zone extends at least as far cast as Trinidad. The structures were found and measured by Robertson (1986) and Robertson et all (1986), who mapped folds and many normal, thrust and undesignated faults, Robertson's (1986) map is shown in our Figure 2A, Robertson and Burke (1989, p. 4493) claimed that the orientation of such structures (northeast-trending folds and thrusts and northwest- striking normal faults) and their occurrence only near the range front demonstrate that the deformed sedi ments overlie a 2-km-wide zone of east-west-striking faults with RLSS (heir El Pilar fault zone). [Copyrght 1981, The American Associaton of Petroleum Geologsts Al fights resnven ‘Manusorpt received November 12,1990; aecepod Jaruary 2, 1901 Department of Geclogial Sclences, Nonrwestom Univers, Evanston, toe 60208, *So\smic Research Unt, University of West Indies, St. Augustine, “isda end Tobago. First, we dispute the validity of their structural data ‘An examination by two of the writers (Speed and Row- ley) of the Aripo River banks (Figure 2B) indicated sig nificantly different attitudes of bedding at most positions from those of Robertson et al, (1986) (Figure 2A). We measured as bedding only those surfaces defined by grain-size layering and plane lamination in sandy beds. The sediments contain a widespread overprint of frac- tures and oxidation bands that are probably products of weathering and root growth. Bioturbation is locally intense. We claim that bonafide bedding occurs in a wide range of dip directions (Figures 2B, 3B), not in the two narrow girdles (Figures 2A, 3A) shown in Robert- son et al. (1986) or in the single narrow girdle shown by Robertson and Burke (1989, their Figure 4). Gentle folds do indeed occur, but the trends of their subhorizontal axes are varied (north and east, Figure 3B), not the northeasterly trends shown by Robertson and Burke (1989) (theit Figure 4). Our composite plot of bedding. (Figure 3B) shows no cylindrical axis, hence no sugges- tion of the preferred direction of folding inferred by Robertson and Burke (1989) from the northwest-trend- ing girdle of their composite plot (Figure 3A). We were unable to find most of the faults mapped by Robertson et al. (1986) and Robertson and Burke (2989, their Figure 4). We saw only a few fractures that penetrated the sediments below the weathering zone, and of these, none had indicators of sense or magni- tude of slip. From our data, we are unable to ascribe any particu- lar structural regime or kinematic interpretation to the Pleistocene sediment of the Aripo River banks. Moreover, even if the structures used by Robertson and Burke (1989) were valid, their interpretation is, nonunique; itis an elementary tenet of structural geolo- gy (e.g., Hobbs et al,, 1976) that structures arising from simple shear (here with east-west shear planes and east shear direction) cannot be distinguished from those arising from pure shear (here with northwest-southeast contraction) without independent evidence for rota- tion, To conclude, Robertson and Burke (1989) have provided no evidence for deformation of the Pleis tocene sediments in a RLSS zone or for the existence of fault strands in the subsurface of the studied area. Second, Robertson and Burke (1989) cited frequent seismicity of the Fl Pilar fault zone as evidence for con- 1789 Discussion \ f | — Figure 1—Map of southeastern Caribbean region, showing well defined Fl Pilar fault zone trace (solid line) from Paria west and eastward continuation of Fl Pilar (dashes) postulated by Robertson and Burke (1989). Teleseismic hypocenters (mp > 4.5) for events of depth less than 50 km from the NEIS (National Earthquake Information Service), 1963-1988; mechanisms from Russo et al. (in press); shaded quadrants are compressional, lower hemisphere; numbers beside mechanism are focal depths. NR = Northern Range, WS = Warm Springs. tinuing activity within a context of the so-called El Pilar fault zone in Trinidad. In fact, locally recorded earth- quakes (Shepherd et al., in press) and teleseismic data (Russo et al, in press) (Figure 1) show that the Fl Pilar fault zone west of Paria has frequent shallow earth quakes, many with RLSS mechanisms on east-west planes, whereas in Trinidad, seismicity is nearly absent, and the few recorded events are below 50 km and do not have RLSS mechanisms, Therefore, either the entire postulated EI Pilar fault zone east of Paria is a seismic gap oF it is nonexistent as a RLSS fault. ‘Third, Robertson and Burke (1989, p. 493) refer to fault strands of the El Pilar fault zone within Cretaceous, rocks of the Northern Range (Figure 1), presumably those shown on the map of Kugler (1959). We have studied much of the southern foot of the Northern Range and found no evidence for the existence of the Jong continuous subvertical faults with east-west strike shown on Kugler’s map and sections, We have, howev- er, found that the youngest structures in good exposures of the metamorphic rocks are brittle faults with slicken- side and striations that cut planarly through the outcrop. These may record the latest displacement events along the southern foot of the Northem Range. Figure 4 shows from data collected by one of the writers (Weber) that such faults are almost entirely steeply dipping, have widely varied but mainly east-west strikes, and have a predominant dipslip component. Only a couple of them have a significant RLSS component. Therefore, there is, no evidence for the existence of a RLSS F! Pilar fault near its postulated trace either within or south of the southern foot of the Northern Range. PLATE KINEMATICS Robertson and Burke (1989) gave expected rates of relative velocity of the Caribbean and South American plates over the last 30 m.y. on the basis of Carib- bean-North American rates at the Cayman Trough from Discussion 1791 Aaa side of bedang i» 5° mace of nedang, ap < Lv nce of test (AO 8208 oF tt at A 08 of normal at ga Figure 2—Structural data mapped in Pleistocene sediments exposed in banks of Aripo River: (A) Robertson (1986), and (B) this study. Area located in Figure 1; subareas 1.3 located on inset map. Rosencrantz et al. (1988) and the minimal east-west component of velocity between the two Americas dur- ing that interval. They failed, however, to state their questionable assumption that the Caribbean is rigid between the Cayman Trough and their southern bound- ary zone. More important, whereas the Cayman rates given by Rosencrantz et al. (1988) are 15 mm/yr from 0 to 26 Ma and 25-30 mm/yr before then, Robertson and Burke (1989) used 20 mm/yr from 0 to 20 Ma and 60 mm/yr from 20 to 30 Ma. Robertson and Burke thus fig ured 1000 km displacement since 30 Ma, a value twice What the Cayman rate would predict. Therefore, their velocities and displacements are unfounded. Further- more, they claimed incorrectly that Speed (1985) advo- cated only minor RISS displacement in the southeastern Caribbean. That study permitted as much as 500 km. since the Eocene, a value which is not minor relative t0 the displacement at the Cayman Trough. ORIGIN OF THE NORTHERN RANGE ‘The Northem Range of Trinidad is made up of meta- morphosed Mesozoic rocks (Barr and Saunders, 1968; Saunders, 1972), Robertson and Burke (1989, p. 502-503) stated that such rocks were metamorphosed and deformed far to the west during a Late Creta- ceous-carly Paleocene are-contineat collision, which also created the Villa de Cura metamorphic rocks now in western Venezuela. ‘They thought that since then the Northern Range has been rafied east as a relatively coherent sliver at least 1000 km in the northern wall of 1792 Discussion the BI Pilar fault. This is wrong. The age of maximum, metamorphism and first ductile deformation in North- cern Range schists is 20-30 Ma on the basis of 4/394 dating and structural studies (Speed and Foland, in press), It is evident that the Northen Range rocks can- not be correlated with schists formed during Mesozoic metamorphism in western Venezuela because of the difference in age of metamorphism and because the ‘maximum RLSS transport of the Northem Range schists since 30 Ma is only about 500 km, according to plate velocities at the Cayman Trough. It is unlikely that the mid-Cenozoic metamorphism and related deformation of Northern Range rocks, which was at depths of 10 km or more, occurred in a strike-slip zone. Rather, it probably took place in a collision zone as advocated by Speed (1985) and also by Robertson and Burke (1989), but along the northern continental margin of easier South America not western South America as they proposed. NORTH COAST FAULT ZONE From seismic sections, Robertson and Burke (1989) showed that the shelf north of Trinidad is cut by Neo- gene and Holocene high-angle faults with large (up to 4 km) and small stratigraphic separation, as did West- brook et al. in Speed (1984), Scott (1985), and Ram- roop (1986), who were not referenced by Robertson and Burke, Unlike previous workers, however, Robert- son and Burke called for large RLSS in addition to the normal components of slip on such faults. Their evi dence for RLSS is nonunique, and the structures cited could be products of strictly normal faulting: curvy and splaying fault traces and hanging-wall folds. Their interpretation that some basin depoaxes are offset by strike slip is also nonunique—the basins on opposing walls could have formed independently, either on strike slip or normal fault blocks. They further cited the existence of folds with northeast-trending axes in and north of the North Coast fault zone as evidence of RLSS. We disagree with their statement that the Tobago arch is an anticline or had such an origin. The arch is more likely a horst with late Neogene strata onlapping both flanks. Finally, we contest their assignment of dip angles to the deep steep faults of the North Coast fault zone; the evidence in the reflection records is too vague to detect either the sense or angle of dip. From our own studies of the North Coast fault zone, we are uncertain what obliquity, if any, exists in the slip of the North Coast fault zone, and we feel the same concli- sion emerges from the work of Robertson and Burke. FORELAND DEFORMATION The continentward realm of the plate boundary zone south of Paria and the Northern Range contains W B Figure 3—Poles to bedding from maps in Figures 2A, B, plotted on equal area net, lower hemisphere. a foreland fold and thrust belt, and south of that, a foreland basin (Figure 1), Speed (1985) thought that such features were the result of a component of con- vergence in oblique boundary zone motions and the ‘overriding of the continental margin by an arc system, Robertson and Burke (1989) and Burke (1988) also thought that an arc was involved but that the are migrated due east in the RLSS zone without conver- Figure 4—Data on throughgoing planar faults in ‘outcrops of schists at southern foot of Northern, near St. Joseph and Curepe; filled circles: poles planes; open circles: striations on slickensides; eqn area net, lower hemisphere. iit gence on South America, Whereas Speed (1985) had a long stretch of the continental margin simultaneously under contraction and vertical loading to flex the lithosphere flooring the foreland basin, Robertson and Burke (1989) called for such phenomena to be formed in a sort of bow wave that surrounds the tip (hinge) of a RLSS strike-slip fault that propagates eastward along the northern edge of the continent (their Figure 15). Their origin of the foreland basin, which is one of the world’s most profound (at least 12 km subsi- dence), is that the contractile belt at the fault tip caused initial depression on the belt's periphery. Sub- sequent subsidence was thought to be due to se mentation channeled by uplift of the northern wall of the Fl Pilar fault following the eastward passage of the fault tip. This origin has many problems. First, the foreland thrust belt would appear to be Far too wide (150 km. north to south) and to include too much contraction (40 km; Rossi et al., 1987) to be caused by stress at the tip of a strike-slip fault (e.g., Segall and Pollard, 1980) or the front of an arc, both of which were assigned by Robertson and Burke (1989) to migrate tangentially along the north margin of the thrust belt. Second, the orientation of foreland contraction is north- northwest-south-southeast (Rossi et al., 1987), not northwest-southeast as Robertson and Burke show it. Third, in their model, the strain should change upon Discussion 1793 eastward passage of the tip of their RLSS fault. One effect is that uplift should occur uniformly across the strike-slip belt—there is no reason for the northern wall to rise preferentially as they show it (the A-P-NR belt, their Figure 15). There is, therefore, no basis for the localization of sedimentation from their tectonic model. Fourth, zones of documented passage of tips of strike- slip faults such as the San Andreas do not include wide fold-thrust belts in their walls, even with fault-normal compression (Mount and Supe, 1987; Namson and Davis, 1988). (OTHER ISSUES Robertson and Burke (1989) suggested that disparate sedimentary facies currently in proximity in central Trinidad were juxtaposed by RLSS faulting, citing the Paleocene sandy Chaudiere and hemipelagic Lizard Springs units, This is unnecessary. The Chaudiere is turbiditic (according to unpublished data of R. Speed) and could have been deposited in the same basin as the Lizard Springs. Further, Robertson and Burke (4989) show the Urica and Warm Springs faults extend- ing far beyond (Figure 1) their areas of original defini- tion with little or no evidence. Whereas Munro and Smith (1984) proposed from arguable seismic evidence that the Urica fault may extend as far east as 63°W, Robertson and Burke proclaimed the fault’s position is, established almost as far east as 62°W. Contrary 10 Robertson and Burke's statement, seismicity provides ‘no support for an eastward extrapolation of the Urica fault, Finally, their calculation from the shape of elon- gate mud diapirs of strain and displacement cannot be Used to support their theory. It is well known that diapirs intruding in deforming belts are dikelike, fol lowing the geometry of structures they intrude, such as the axial planar regions of anticlines (Thorsteinsson and Tozer, 1970; Speed, 1988). CONCLUSIONS: Robertson and Burke (1989) have provided no evi- dence that the east-west-striking Caribbean-South America plate boundary zone is nonoblique and has purely RLSS motion, They have not shown that the El Pilar fault zone extends as an active RLSS fault east of Paria through Trinidad or that any particular fault between Grenada and south of Trinidad has large RLSS displacement. Their assigned distribution of 200 km. RSS displacement in the last 8 m.y. has no basis in fact. Whereas we agree that RLSS displacement be tween the Caribbean and South American plates has occurred in the Grenada-Trinidad region, we argue that the total motion is oblique-convergent and that the amount, mechanisms, and sites of RLSS displacement 1794 Discussion REFERENCES CITED Barr, K W., and J. B. Saunders, 1968, An outline of the geology of ‘Trinidad: Fourth Caribbean Geological Conference Transactions, p. 1-10. Burke, K., 1988, Tectonic evolution of the Caribbean: Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Science, v.16, p. 201-230. Hobbs, B.E., W. D. Means, and P.F. Williams, 1976, An outline of structural geology: New York, Wiley, 371 p, Kugler, H, C.. 1959, Geological map of Trinidad: Petroleum Associa tion of Trinidad, scale 1:100,000. Metz, H., 1968, Stratigraphic and geologic history of the extreme rhomheastern Serrania del Interior Fourth Caribbean Geological Conference Transactions, p. 275-292 Mount, V. S., and J. Supe, 1987, State of stress near the San ‘Andreas ful amphications for wrench tectonics: Geology, ¥. 15, p. Mas-1146, Munro, S.8, and F. D. Smit, Je, 1984, The Uriea fault zone, north- ‘eastern Venezuela: Geological Society of America Memoirs, ¥. 162, p. 213-216. Namson, JS, and T. 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