Abstract

The recovery and subsequent prolific radiation of mammals in the northern Western Interior of North America following the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–P) boundary is well documented in rocks attributed to the Puercan Land Mammal Age. The most complete Puercan record is that of the Tullock Formation, which crops out widely in Garfield and McCone counties, eastern Montana. The Tullock Formation overlies the dinosaur-bearing Hell Creek Formation and consists of a stratigraphic series of channel and overbank deposits from which well-preserved Puercan faunas have been collected. These channel deposits are typically bracketed by widespread coal beds. The IrZ- and Z-coals mark the base of the Puercan at the K–P boundary as defined by the highest appearing local occurrences of in situ dinosaur fossils, the highest stratigraphic occurrence of Cretaceous pollen, and an anomalously high concentration of the element iridium (Ir). The IrZ-Coal is overlain sequentially by the Z-, HFZ-, Y-, W-, and U-coals.Fossil vertebrates of earliest Puercan age (Pu0 or Pu1) occur in sandstones of the Hells Hollow Channel between the IrZ-and HFZ-coals in Garfield County and below the Z-Coal in sandstones of the Bug Creek Channels, McCone County. Late Puercan (Pu2/3) fossil vertebrates are abundant between the Y- and W-coals in sandstones of the Garbani Channel in Garfield County, and in sandstones of the Purgatory Hill quarry in McCone County. Earliest Torrejonian (To1?) fossil vertebrates of the Mosquito Gulch localities, Garfield County, occur in sandstones of the Farrand Channel between the W- and U-coals.Magnetostratigraphies developed on sections at Billy Creek, Hauso Flats, Biscuit Butte, Bug Creek, and Purgatory Hill indicate that the IrZ- and Z-coals, the fossil vertebrate-bearing sandstones of the Hells Hollow and Bug Creek channels, and rocks up to midway between the HFZ- and Y-coals are contained in a zone of reversed polarity, correlated here with chron C29r. The Y through W coals, as well as the fossil vertebrate-bearing sandstones of the Garbani Channel and Purgatory Hill, are contained in an overlying zone of normal polarity, correlated with chron C29n. Rocks immediately above the W-Coal through the U-Coal, which include the Farrand Channel, are in a zone of reversed polarity, correlated here with chron C28r. The top of the section, just above the U-Coal, is in the uppermost zone of normal polarity, tentatively correlated here with the base of chron C28n.40Ar/39Ar dating of single crystals of sanidine separated from bentonites in the IrZ-, Z-, HFZ-, W-, and U-coals has yielded high-precision ages with standard errors of 0.1%. Replicate analyses of single crystals of sanidine yield weighted mean ages for bentonites in the following coals: IrZ, 65.16 ± 0.04 Ma; Z, 65.01 ± 0.03 Ma; HFZ, 64.77 ± 0.06 Ma; W, 64.11 ± 0.02 Ma; and U, 63.90 ± 0.04 Ma. These ages provide detailed calibration of Puercan through earliest Torrejonian (PuO, Pu1, Pu2, Pu3, and ?To1) land mammal ages and provide crucial calibration for the nonmarine K–P boundary and the Early Paleogene portion of the geomagnetic polarity time scale.

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