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Systematic lateral variation in the distribution of fossil mammals in alluvial paleosols, lower Eocene Willwood Formation, Wyoming

By
Thomas M. Bown
Thomas M. Bown
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K. Christopher Beard
K. Christopher Beard
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Published:
January 01, 1990

Willwood Formation paleosols are ranked on a scale of 0 to 5 on the basis of their relative maturity (= relative time required to form). In the lateral dimension, the least mature soils were developed more proximal to ancient channel belts, whereas the more mature paleosols formed in areas more distant to channel belts. Quantitative study shows that both mammalian taxonomic composition and taphonomic completeness vary systematically with the maturity of these paleosols.

Species-level differences in taxonomic composition are identified for pedofacies sequences located at the 442-m and 546-m levels of the Willwood Formation. At 442 m, Cantius frugivorus and Hyopsodus sp., cf. H. minor account for practically all of the adapiform primate and hyopsodontid condylarth faunas in stage 3 to 4 paleosols (which are distally located with respect to the ancient channel belt). Laterally adjacent and stratigraphically equivalent stage 1 to 2 paleosols (proximally located with respect to the ancient channel belt), are instead dominated by Cantius sp. nov. and Hyopsodus sp., cf. H. miticulus. Intermediate proportions of these taxa occur at localities in paleosols of intermediate maturity (stage 2 to 3 paleosols) at the 442-m level. At 546 m, the otherwise relatively rare species Hyopsodus powellianus makes up nearly 50 percent of the hyopsodontid fauna at some localities developed in stage 1 paleosols; elsewhere in this pedofacies the species Hyopsodus minor and H. lysitensis make up the overwhelming majority of the Hyopsodus. Also at 546 m, the adapiform primates Cantius abditus and “Copelemur”feretutus exhibit reversals in relative abundance from proximal to distal localities across the pedofacies; Cantius is more abundant in proximal localities and “Copelemur” is dominant in distal localities.

Ordinal-level differences in taxonomic composition were detected at localities in two distinct pedofacies lying at or slightly above Biohorizon C (= “Graybullian-Lysitean” boundary). There, Condylarthra and Artiodactyla are more common in immature (stages 1 to 2) than mature (stage 4) paleosols, whereas the reverse is true for Primates, Carnivora, Rodentia, and Perissodactyla.

Lateral controls on completeness of skeletal elements, as related to lateral variation in sedimentation rate, are also evident. Proportions of less complete skeletal elements are considerably higher at localities developed in mature paleosols, where sedimentation rates were low. These findings underscore the inherent relatedness of geographic distribution of taxa, taphonomy, and sedimentology and suggest that intrabasinal differences in microhabitat had a significant effect on the local taxonomic composition of the Willwood mammalian fauna.

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GSA Special Papers

Dawn of the Age of Mammals in the northern part of the Rocky Mountain Interior, North America

Thomas M. Bown
Thomas M. Bown
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Kenneth D. Rose
Kenneth D. Rose
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Geological Society of America
Volume
243
ISBN print:
9780813722436
Publication date:
January 01, 1990

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