The Cretaceous units exposed in the northwestern segment of the Colombian Andes preserve the record of extensional and compressional tectonics prior to the collision with Caribbean oceanic terranes. We integrated field, stratigraphic, sedimentary provenance, whole rock geochemistry, Nd isotopes and U-Pb zircon data to understand the Cretaceous tectonostratigraphic and magmatic record of the Colombian Andes. The results suggest that several sedimentary successions including the Abejorral Fm. were deposited on top of the continental basement in an Early Cretaceous backarc basin (150–100 Ma). Between 120 and 100 Ma, the appearance of basaltic and andesitic magmatism (~115–100 Ma), basin deepening, and seafloor spreading were the result of advanced stages of backarc extension. A change to compressional tectonics took place during the Late Cretaceous (100–80 Ma). During this compressional phase, the extended blocks were reincorporated into the margin, closing the former Early Cretaceous backarc basin. Subsequently, a Late Cretaceous volcanic arc was built on the continental margin; as a result, the volcanic rocks of the Quebradagrande Complex were unconformably deposited on top of the faulted and folded rocks of the Abejorral Fm. Between the Late Cretaceous and the Paleocene (80–60 Ma), an arc-continent collision between the Caribbean oceanic plateau and the South-American continental margin deformed the rocks of the Quebradagrande Complex and shut-down the active volcanic arc. Our results suggest an Early Cretaceous extensional event followed by compressional tectonics prior to the collision with the Caribbean oceanic plateau.
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