Mud volcanoes along the northwest margin of the Orinoco Delta are part of a regional belt of soft sediment deformation and diapirism that formed in response to rapid foredeep sedimentation and subsequent tectonic compression along the Caribbean-South American plate boundary. Field studies of five mud volcanoes show that such structures consist of a central mound covered by active and inactive vents. Inactive vents and mud flows are densely vegetated, whereas active vents are sparsely vegetated. Four out of the five mud volcanoes studied are currently active. Orinoco mud flows consist of mud and clayey silt matrix surrounding lithic clasts of varying composition. Preliminary analysis suggests that the mud volcano sediment is derived from underlying Miocene and Pliocene strata. Hydrocarbon seeps are associated with several of the active mud volcanoes. Orinoco mud volcanoes overlie the crest of a mud-diapir-cored anticline located along the axis of the Eastern Venezuelan Basin. Faulting along the flank of the Pedernales mud volcano suggests that fluidized sediment and hydrocarbons migrate to the surface along faults produced by tensional stresses along the crest of the anticline. Orinoco mud volcanoes highlight the proximity of this major delta to an active plate margin and the importance of tectonic influences on its development. Evaluation of the Orinoco Delta mud volcanoes and those elsewhere indicates that these features are important indicators of compressional tectonism along deformation fronts of plate margins. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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Mud volcanoes of the Orinoco Delta, Eastern Venezuela