The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Florida Straits between the U.S. and Cuba, and with the Caribbean Sea via the Yucatán Channel between Mexico and Cuba.
The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula, and on the southeast by Cuba.
The Gulf of Mexico formed approximately 300 million years ago as a result of plate tectonics. The Gulf of Mexico basin is roughly oval and is approximately 810 nautical miles (930 mi or 1,500 km) wide and floored by sedimentary rocks and recent sediments.
The Gulf of Mexico is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Florida Straits between the U.S. and Cuba, and with the Caribbean Sea (with which it forms the American Mediterranean Sea) via the Yucatán Channel between Mexico and Cuba.
Today, the Gulf of Mexico has the following 7 main areas:
- Gulf of Mexico basin, which contains the Sigsbee Deep and can be further divided into the continental rise, the Sigsbee Abyssal Plain, and the Mississippi Cone.
- Northeast Gulf of Mexico, which extends from a point east of the Mississippi River Delta near Biloxi to the eastern side of Apalachee Bay.
- South Florida Continental Shelf and Slope, which extends along the coast from Apalachee Bay to the Straits of Florida and includes the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.
- Campeche Bank, which extends from the Yucatán Straits in the east to the Tabasco–Campeche Basin in the west and includes Arrecife Alacran.
- Bay of Campeche, which is an isthmian embayment extending from the western edge of Campeche Bank to the offshore regions just east of the port of Veracruz.
- Western Gulf of Mexico, which is located between Veracruz to the south and the Rio Grande to the north.
- Northwest Gulf of Mexico, which extends from Alabama to the Rio Grande.
The Gulf of Mexico consists of several ecological and geologic provinces, chief of which are the coastal zone, the continental shelf, the continental slope, and the abyssal plain. The coastal zone consists of tidal marshes, sandy beaches, mangrove-covered areas, and many bays, estuaries, and lagoons.
The shores of the Gulf of Mexico are a major habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. The gulf waters contain huge populations of fish, particularly along the continental shelf. The shallow continental shelf regions of the Gulf of Mexico contain large deposits of petroleum and natural gas.