Abstract

The rare earth element (REE) content of fossil bones was analyzed and compared with the degree of ancient pedogenic development and depositional environments from several locations in the Orellan Scenic Member of the Oligocene Brule Formation in Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Paleosols ranged from weakly developed Entisols to more strongly developed Inceptisols, all typical of fluvial environments and possible paleocatena variation. Paleosols were alkaline and well drained. Sediments with sparse soil features from an oxbow lake system suggest that conditions were too waterlogged and sedimentation rates too rapid for significant pedogenesis. The variance of REE signatures in fossil bones from the paleosol sites was significantly greater than that of fossils from minimally altered sediments of the former oxbow lake. Positive Ce anomalies were associated with low U concentrations and indicate paleoredox conditions. Greater degrees of pedogenesis, regardless of the horizon in which the bone was found, systematically correlated with increased heavy REE enrichment in fossil bones. The fossil-bone REE signatures from the different paleosols and depositional environments were significantly different and distinguishable.

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