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Paleoenvironmental implications of an expanded microfossil assemblage from the Chamberlain Formation, Belt Supergroup, Montana

By
Zachary R. Adam
Zachary R. Adam
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717, USA, and Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, Seattle, Washington 98154, USA
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Mark L. Skidmore
Mark L. Skidmore
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717, USA
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David W. Mogk
David W. Mogk
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717, USA
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Published:
September 01, 2016

The Chamberlain Formation, one of the lower members of the early Mesoproterozoic Belt Supergroup, has previously yielded low-diversity assemblages of microfossils but the reported fossils were of limited utility for inferring paleoenvironmental conditions. Here, we describe substantially more diverse microfossil assemblages from drill core of the Chamberlain Formation obtained from the Black Butte mine locality near White Sulphur Springs, Montana. The Chamberlain Formation biota contains abundant Valeria, Leiosphaeridia, Synsphaeridium, and Lineaforma, with lesser amounts of Satka, Symplassosphaeridium, andConiunctiophycus. The assemblages partially overlap with, but are distinct from, microfossils recently reported from the Greyson Formation, another unit from the Helena embayment of the Belt Supergroup. Since the overlapping taxa exhibit similar states of preservation but dissimilar relative abundances, we interpret the assemblages as reflective of distinct paleoenvironmental conditions of the sampled sections of the Chamberlain and Greyson Formations. The Chamberlain Formation assemblages are most comparable to microfossil groupings reported from the Bylot Supergroup of Canada and the Roper Group of Australia from sediments from very shallow-water (supratidal to lower shoreface) marine environments. This comparison corroborates previous hypotheses on the basis of sedimentological data that the lower Chamberlain Formation sediments were formed in a lagoonal or mud-flat environment. By contrast, the Greyson Formation assemblages are most comparable to microfossil groupings associated with sediments from shallow-shelf marine environments. The fidelity of comparisons among the 1.2 Ga Bylot Supergroup, 1.49 Ga Roper Group, and 1.45 Ga Belt Supergroup assemblages indicates that the groups of microorganisms that produced these assemblages, and their associations with the paleoenvironments that they inhabited, may have been characteristic of the littoral marine biosphere throughout much of the Mesoproterozoic.

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GSA Special Papers

Belt Basin: Window to Mesoproterozoic Earth

John S. MacLean
John S. MacLean
Department of Physical Science, Southern Utah University, 351 W. University Boulevard, Cedar City, Utah 84720, USA
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James W. Sears
James W. Sears
Department of Geosciences, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive #1296, Missoula, Montana 59812-1296, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
522
ISBN print:
9780813725222
Publication date:
September 01, 2016

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