Abstract

Ancient soils (paleosols) of the latest Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation are mildly calcareous, have clayey subsurface (Bt) horizons, and exhibit abundant large root traces, as is typical of forested soils in subhumid climates. The fact that some of the paleosols are capped by thin, impure coals is evidence for seasonally dry swamps. The paleosol evidence thus supports published reconstructions, based on fossil leaves, pollen, and vertebrates, that this area was subtropical, seasonally dry, subhumid, and forested mainly by angiosperms.

Paleosols within the earliest Tertiary (Paleocene) Tullock Formation have thicker, coaly, surface (O and A) horizons and are more drab colored and less calcareous than paleosols of the Hell Creek Formation. These features are indications of waterlogging and of a humid climate. Large root traces and clayey subsurface (Bt) horizons are evidence of swamp woodland and forest. Inferred base level and paleoclimate are compatible with evidence from fossil leaves and pollen that indicates more abundant deciduous, early successional angiosperms and swamp conifers compared to those of Late Cretaceous time.

Most of the paleosols have drab Munsell hues and can be expected to preserve a reliable fossil record of pollen and other plant remains. The carbonate content of the paleosols declines toward the top of the Hell Creek Formation, and the uppermost 3 m of the formation is noncalcareous. Because of this, the decline in diversity and abundance of bone over this interval is interpreted as a taphonomic artifact. Evidence from paleosols supports paleobotani-cal evidence for catastrophic change in ecosystems at the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary.

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