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The Caribbean-North America-Cocos Triple Junction and the dynamics of the Polochic-Motagua fault systems: Pull-up and zipper models

Abstract : The Polochic-Motagua fault systems (PMFS) are part of the sinistral transform boundary between the North American and Caribbean plates. To the west, these systems interact with the subduction zone of the Cocos plate, forming a subduction-subduction-transform triple junction. The North American plate moves westward relative to the Caribbean plate. This movement does not affect the geometry of the subducted Cocos plate, which implies that deformation is accommodated entirely in the two overriding plates. Structural data, fault kinematic analysis, and geomorphic observations provide new elements that help to understand the late Cenozoic evolution of this triple junction. In the Miocene, extension and shortening occurred south and north of the Motagua fault, respectively. This strain regime migrated northward to the Polochic fault after the late Miocene. This shift is interpreted as a "pull-up" of North American blocks into the Caribbean realm. To the west, the PMFS interact with a trench-parallel fault zone that links the Tonala fault to the Jalpatagua fault. These faults bound a fore-arc sliver that is shared by the two overriding plates. We propose that the dextral Jalpatagua fault merges with the sinistral PMFS, leaving behind a suturing structure, the Tonala fault. This tectonic "zipper" allows the migration of the triple junction. As a result, the fore-arc sliver comes into contact with the North American plate and helps to maintain a linear subduction zone along the trailing edge of the Caribbean plate. All these processes currently make the triple junction increasingly diffuse as it propagates eastward and inland within both overriding plates.
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Christine Authemayou, Gilles Brocard, C. Teyssier, T. Simon-Labric, A. Guttierrez, et al.. The Caribbean-North America-Cocos Triple Junction and the dynamics of the Polochic-Motagua fault systems: Pull-up and zipper models. Tectonics, American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2011, 30, pp.TC3010. ⟨10.1029/2010TC002814⟩. ⟨insu-00609533⟩

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