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The late Eocene Florissant Formation in central Colorado is a rich and diverse continental Lagerstätte yielding well-preserved fossil assemblages from lacustrine and fluvial facies. This investigation focused on the lacustrine facies at Clare’s Quarry and used biotic and abiotic evidence to characterize aspects of the lake and processes that resulted in the accumulation and preservation of the host rock and its fossils. Autecology of modern analogs representing the fossil diatom taxa was used to augment sedimentary data in characterizing the lake, propose peripheral habitats within the catchment area, and suggest a terrestrial source for mudstone units.

The sedimentary and stratigraphic record at the study site reveals a lake with sufficient depth to allow bottom waters to remain isolated and anoxic for long periods. Sediments that accumulated in the lake produced distinct lacustrine lithofacies that are interpreted as representing at least three modes of origin: stable lake, pyroclastic, and mud turbidite sedimentation. Slow, suspension settling of fine clays and volcanic ash into a moderately deep, stable lake resulted in laminated shales. These laminated shales contain frustules of diatoms from planktic and benthic lake habitats; diatoms transported into the lake from streams and wetlands; fish, mollusks, ostracods, and insects; and plants from marginal and upslope environments. Intermittent volcanic eruptions produced air-fall ash and granular tuff that accumulated as interbeds within the lake shales. Periods of stable lake sedimentation were frequently interrupted by rapid influxes of suspended fine clays, perhaps as mud-dominated turbidites that prograded into the lake at intervals of high runoff triggered by climatic, volcanic, or tectonic events.

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