Vestiges of the proto-Caribbean seaway: Origin of the San Souci Volcanic Group, Trinidad

Iain Neill, Alan R. Hastie, Andrew C. Kerr, Kevin R. Chamberlain, Axel K. Schmitt, Franco Urbani, James L. Pindell, Tiffany L. Barry, Ian L. Millar

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Outcrops of volcanic–hypabyssal rocks in Trinidad document the opening of the proto-Caribbean seaway during Jurassic–Cretaceous break-up of the Americas. The San Souci Group on the northern coast of Trinidad comprises the San Souci Volcanic Formation (SSVF) and passive margin sediments of the ~ 130–125 Ma Toco Formation. The Group was trapped at the leading edge of the Pacific-derived Caribbean Plate during the Cretaceous–Palaeogene, colliding with the para-autochthonous margin of Trinidad during the Oligocene–Miocene. In-situ U–Pb ion probe dating of micro-zircons from a mafic volcanic breccia reveal the SSVF crystallised at 135.0 ± 7.3 Ma. The age of the SSVF is within error of the age of the Toco Formation. Assuming a conformable contact, geodynamic models indicate a likely origin for the SSVF on the passive margin close to the northern tip of South America. Immobile element and Nd–Hf radiogenic isotope signatures of the mafic rocks indicate the SSVF was formed by ≪10% partial melting of a heterogeneous spinel peridotite source with no subduction or continental lithospheric mantle component. Felsic breccias within the SSVF are more enriched in incompatible elements, with isotope signatures that are less radiogenic than the mafic rocks of the SSVF. The felsic rocks may be derived from re-melting of mafic crust. Although geochemical comparisons are drawn here with proto-Caribbean igneous outcrops in Venezuela and elsewhere in the Caribbean more work is needed to elucidate the development of the proto-Caribbean seaway and its rifted margins. In particular, ion probe dating of micro-zircons may yield valuable insights into magmatism and metamorphism in the Caribbean, and in altered basaltic terranes more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-185
Number of pages16
Early online date22 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2014


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