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Magnetic stratigraphy of the Eocene-Oligocene floral transition in western North America

By
Donald R. Prothero
Donald R. Prothero
1
Department of Geology, Occidental College, Los Angeles, California 90041, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2008

Eocene and Oligocene floras of the western United States show a climatic deterioration from warmer conditions to much cooler and drier conditions. Recent 40Ar/39Ar dates and magnetic stratigraphy have greatly improved their correlation. In this study, the uppermost Eocene Antero Formation, Colorado, is entirely reversed in polarity, and is correlated with late Chron C13r, based on 40Ar/39Ar dates of 33.77–33.89 Ma. The early Oligocene Pitch-Pinnacle flora of Colorado is within rocks of normal polarity, and best correlated with Chron C12n (30.5–31.0 Ma), based on 40Ar/39Ar dates of 32.9–29.0 Ma (although correlation with Chron C11n is also possible). The late Oligocene (40Ar/39Ar dated 26.26–26.92 Ma) Creede flora of southwestern Colorado is correlated with Chron C8r. The early Oligocene (40Ar/39Ar dated at 31.5 Ma) Granger Canyon flora in the Warner Mountains, near Cedarville, northeastern California, is correlated with Chron C12r. These results are compiled with previously published dates and magnetic stratigraphy of the Eugene-Fisher floral sequence in western Oregon, the Bridge Creek floras in central Oregon, other floras in the Warner Mountains of northeast California, and the Florissant flora of central Colorado. In Colorado, the climatic change seems to have occurred between the Florissant and Antero floras, and is dated between 33.89 and 34.07 Ma, or latest Eocene in age, although the Pitch-Pinnacle flora suggests that the deterioration was less severe and took place in the early Oligocene. In northeast California, the dating is not as precise, so the climatic change could have occurred between 31.5 and 34.0 Ma (probably early Oligocene). In western Oregon (Eugene and Fisher Formations), the change occurs between the early Oligocene Goshen flora (33.4 Ma) and the early Oligocene Rujada flora (31.5 Ma). In the John Day region of Oregon, it occurs before the oldest Bridge Creek flora, dated at 33.62 Ma (right after the Eocene-Oligocene boundary). Thus, only two of these four floral sequences (Eugene, Oregon, and Cedarville, California) clearly show the early Oligocene climatic change consistent with that documented in the global marine record, whereas the climatic change was seemingly abrupt in the late Eocene in Colorado between 33.89 and 34.07 Ma, and also sometime during the late Eocene (before 33.62 Ma) in central Oregon.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Paleontology of the Upper Eocene Florissant Formation, Colorado

Herbert W. Meyer
Herbert W. Meyer
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Dena M. Smith
Dena M. Smith
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Geological Society of America
Volume
435
ISBN print:
9780813724355
Publication date:
January 01, 2008

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