La Paleogeografía del Caribe y sus implicaciones para la biogeografía histórica

Manuel A. Iturralde-Vinent

Resumen


El trabajo presenta una serie de mapas paleogeográficos que ilustran la formación y evolución del Caribe desde el Triásico Tardío al presente y se discuten sus implicaciones biogeográficas. Se demuestra que el Caribe desde su propia formación ha jugado un papel trascendental controlando la circulación de las aguas oceánicas, moderando el clima terrestre, y determinando las posibilidades de intercambio biótico entre los ecosistemas de las tierras y mares circundantes. La formación de un pasaje marino en el mesozoico entre Tethys occidental y Pacífico oriental a lo largo de Pangea centro-oriental, ha sido postulado desde el Jurásico Inferior (Hettangiano-Pliensbachiano) de acuerdo a algunas tesis biogeográficas, pero faltan los datos estratigráficos que le sirvan de soporte a esta propuesta. Quizás desde el Bathoniano (≈164 Ma), pero ciertamente desde el Oxfordiano (≈154 Ma), los datos de la estratigrafía indican que esta conexión era totalmente funcional y la corriente marina Circum-Tropical estaba activa. La dispersión de las biotas terrestres entre Laurasia occidental (América del Norte) y Gondwana occidental (América del Sur) se interrumpió desde el Calloviano, cuando entre esos continentes se formó una faja de mar que los separó. Posteriormente hubo intercambios de tetrápodos entre América del Norte y América del Sur, a través de un puente terrestre que los conectó brevemente durante el Campaniano tardío y el Maastrichtiano (≈75-65 Ma), y a partir del Plioceno (2.5-2.3 Ma). Las evidencias de que haya existido un puente intracontinental al final del Mioceno Medio aun es ambigua. Desde la formación del primer archipiélago de islas volcánicas en el área del Caribe, aproximadamente en la transición jurásico-cretácico (≈141 Ma), en el escenario paleogeográfico del Caribe y su entorno han estado presentes islas volcánicas, bajos, y crestas. Pero aquellas tierras emergidas fueron generalmente efímeras, ya que se sumergieron apenas unos pocos millones de años después de emergidas; y si soportaron alguna biota, estas desaparecieron junto con las islas. Sólo a partir del eoceno medio (≈40 Ma) han existido tierras permanentemente emergidas en el marco geográfico del Caribe, que proveen el substrato necesario para la formación y desarrollo de las biotas terrestres actuales. De particular importancia biogeográfica en este periodo de tiempo, fue la formación de una extensa cresta emergida (Gaarlandia), que hace 35-33 Ma unió brevemente América del Sur con los núcleos de las futuras Antillas Mayores, y el desarrollo de los núcleos terrestres antillanos hasta el presente.


Palabras clave


paleogeografía, paleoceanografía, biogeografía, Caribe, Cuba, Mesozoico, Cenozoico.


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