Plate kinematic models for Antactica during Gondwana break-up: A review.

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M. E. Ghidella
L. A Lawver
S. Marenssi
L. M. Gahagan


The opening history of both the Weddell Sea and South Atlantic Ocean is critical to understand the break-up of Gondwana and the geological evolution of Antarctica since Early Jurassic times. The dispersal of the Gondwanide fragments is important to understand the development of past ocean circulation, the evolution of sedimentary basins located to the East of the Antarctic Peninsula and to assess possible routes for the dispersal of plants and animals among the southern continents. Unfortunately the tectonics of the Weddell Sea is difficult to resolve because of the scarcity of data and the region's complexity. Although considerable progress has been achieved in the past 20 years with new marine aeromagnetic data and satellite-derived gravity anomaly maps, there are still several models in consideration which differ in crustal ages and schemes of opening. In this paper we present a review of four of those models. By using poles of rotation, synthetic isochrons and flowlines, we proceed backward in time beginning at Chron 34 (83.5 million years), as it is relatively well defined ocean wide, and present crustal age maps that display the estimated trace of the South America-Antarctica-Africa triple junction for each model. We also plot reconstructions at four selected epochs for all models using the same projection and scale to facilitate comparison. The diverse simplifying assumptions that need to be made in every case regarding plate fragmentation to account for the numerous syn-rift basins and periods of stretching are strong indicators that rigid plate tectonics is too simple a model for the present problem.

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Ghidella, M. E., Lawver, L. A., Marenssi, S., & Gahagan, L. M. (2007). Plate kinematic models for Antactica during Gondwana break-up: A review. Revista De La Asociación Geológica Argentina, 62(4), 635-645. Retrieved from