Abstract

The age of the nonmarine Two Medicine Formation of northwestern Montana is currently based upon correlations with K–Ar-dated Western Interior ammonite zones. 40Ar/39Ar dating of biotite and plagioclase separated from four bentonites and one crystal-rich tuff permits for the first time direct determination of the age of Two Medicine strata. Biotite and plagioclase from a bentonite 10 m below the top of the Two Medicine Formation yield concordant 40Ar/39Ar ages of 74 Ma, while biotite and plagioclase from two bentonites and a crystal-rich tuff from approximately 100 m above the base of the formation cluster in age around 80 Ma. The total duration of Two Medicine deposition is estimated using these new radio-isotopic ages via extrapolation of an average rock accumulation rate.The new 40Ar/39Ar ages facilitate regional correlation of the dinosaur-dominated paleofauna recovered from the Two Medicine Formation, and help constrain the timing of the Claggett and Bearpaw transgressions. The ages support correlation of the richly fossiliferous upper lithofacies suite of the Two Medicine Formation with exposures of the Judith River Formation in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada. Radioisotopically dated exposures of the Judith River Formation within Montana that include important Judithian "age" mammal localities correlate approximately with middle and lower parts of the middle lithofacies suite of the Two Medicine Formation. The new 40Ar/39Ar ages further indicate that the transgressions of the Claggett and Bearpaw seas culminated within northwestern Montana at ca. 79.6 and 74.0 Ma, respectively.

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