Clastic domains of sandstones in central/eastern Venezuela, Trinidad, and Barbados: heavy mineral and tectonic constraints on provenance and palaeogeography
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Current models for the tectonic evolution of northeastern South America invoke a Palaeogene phase of inter-American convergence, followed by diachronous dextral oblique collision with the Caribbean Plate, becoming strongly transcurrent in the Late Miocene. Heavy mineral analysis of Cretaceous to Pleistocene rocks from eastern Venezuela, Barbados and Trinidad allow us to define six primary clastic domains, refine our palaeogeographic maps, and relate them to distinct stages of tectonic development: (1) Cretaceous passive margin of northern South America; (2) Palaeogene clastics related to the dynamics of the Proto-Caribbean Inversion Zone before collision with the Caribbean Plate; (3) Late Eocene–Oligocene southward-transgressive clastic sediments fringing the Caribbean foredeep during initial collision; (4) Oligocene–Middle Miocene axial fill of the Caribbean foredeep; (5) Late Eocene–Middle Miocene northern proximal sedimentary fringe of the Caribbean thrustfront; and (6) Late Miocene–Recent deltaic sediments flowing parallel to the orogen during its post-collisional, mainly transcurrent stage. Domain 1–3 sediments are highly mature, comprising primary Guayana Shield-derived sediment or recycled sediment of shield origin eroded from regional Palaeogene unconformities. In Trinidad, palinspastic restoration of Neogene deformation indicates that facies changes once interpreted as north to south are in fact west to east, reflecting progradation from the Maturín Basin into central Trinidad across the NW–SE trending Bohordal marginal offset, distorted by about 70 km of dextral shear through Trinidad. There is no mineralogical indication of a northern or northwestern erosional sediment source until Oligocene onset of Domain 4 sedimentation. Paleocene–Middle Eocene rocks of the Scotland Formation sandstones in Barbados do show an immature orogenic signature, in contrast to Venezuela–Trinidad Domain 2 sediments, this requires: (1) at least a bathymetric difference, if not a tectonic barrier, between them; and (2) that the Barbados deep-water depocentre was within turbidite transport distance of the Early Palaeogene orogenic source areas of western Venezuela and/or Colombia. Domains 4–6 (from Late Oligocene) show a strong direct or recycled influence of Caribbean Orogen igneous and metamorphic terranes in addition to substantial input from the shield areas to the south. The delay in the appearance of common Caribbean detritus in the east, relative to the Paleocene and Eocene appearance of Caribbean-influenced sands in the west, reflects the diachronous, eastward migration of Caribbean foredeep subsidence and sedimentation as a response to eastward-younging collision of the Caribbean Plate and the South American margin.