Abstract View

Volume 26 Issue 10 (October 2016)

GSA Today

Bookmark and Share

Article, pp. 4-10 | Full Text | PDF (5MB)

The geology of Cuba: A brief overview and synthesis


Search GoogleScholar for

Search GSA Today


M.A. Iturralde-Vinent1, A. García-Casco2, Y. Rojas-Agramonte3, J.A. Proenza4, J.B. Murphy5, R.J. Stern6

1 Cuban Academy of Sciences, Cuba
2 Departamento de Mineralogía y Petrología, Universidad de Granada, Fuentenueva s/n, 18002 Granada, Spain; and Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra, CSIC-Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain
3 Institut für Geowissenschaften, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Becherweg 21 D-55099 Mainz, Germany
4 Departament de Mineralogia, Petrologia i Geologia Aplicada Facultat de Geologia, Universitat de Barcelona (UB), Martí i Franquès s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
5 Department of Earth Sciences, St. Francis Xavier, P.O. Box 5000, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, B2G 2W5, Canada
6 Geosciences Department, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas 75080 USA


Cuba is the largest island in the Greater Antilles, and its geology records three important episodes: (1) the Jurassic breakup of North and South America (Pangea) and associated passive margin and oceanic sedimentary and magmatic evolution; (2) the sedimentary, magmatic, and metamorphic evolution of an intra-oceanic Cretaceous-Paleogene ophiolite-arc complex; and (3) the Paleogene “soft collision” and transfer of the NW Caribbean plate (and Cuba) to the North American plate. Thick sequences of Jurassic-Cretaceous strata (conglomerates, sandstones, limestones, dolo­stones, shales) and interlayered basaltic rocks characterize passive margin sequences preserved in the Guaniguanico terrane (western Cuba, related to the Mayan passive margin and the Gulf of Mexico) and the Bahamas Platform borderlands (north of Cuba). Passive margin deposition ceased in latest Cretaceous time, when increasing relief of accreted (overriding) oceanic arc and ophiolite complexes shed coarse sediments (olistostrome and flysch), followed by carbonate deposition. Fragments of the intervening oceanic lithosphere (Proto-Caribbean, connected to the Central Atlantic) and fore- and back-arc oceanic lithosphere (Caribbean, of Pacific origin) occur as tectonic fragments detached from the ophiolitic units, including serpentinized harzburgites and dunites, banded and isotropic gabbros, basalts (tholeiitic and fore-arc basalts, locally with boninites) and Late Jurassic (Tithonian) through Late Cretaceous (Coniacian and younger) oceanic sediments. Arc activity in the Cuban segment of the Greater Antilles produced sedimentary, volcanic, and plutonic rocks during Cretaceous times (ca. 135–70 Ma). A new arc developed in eastern Cuba during Paleocene–middle Eocene times. Cuban arc sequences include island-arc tholeiitic, calcalkaline, and alkaline bimodal suites of volcanic and plutonic rocks. Remnants of Proto-Caribbean oceanic lithosphere occur as exhumed mélange-bearing eclogite-, blueschist-, and garnet-amphibolite-facies tectonic blocks (oldest age ca. 120 Ma) within a serpentinite matrix intercalated with, or at the base of, the overthrusted ophiolitic bodies. Cuban Cretaceous arc magmatic activity ended due to the subduction of Proto-Caribbean passive margin sequences of the Caribeana terrane, an offshore protuberance of Yucatan. This event formed strongly deformed high-pressure meta­sedimentary and metaigneous rocks at ca. 70 Ma, when the Caribbean plate began to collide with North America. The collision, which included overriding of the ophiolitic and arc units over both subducted and unsubducted passive margin sequences, also produced synorogenic basins and filled them, a process that continued until ca. 40 Ma. This foldbelt was succeeded by local uplift and subsidence to form late Eocene–Recent unconformable post-orogenic continental basins.

Manuscript received 6 May 2016; accepted 30 June 2016

doi: 10.1130/GSATG296A.1