Abstract

Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) was used to determine rare earth element (REE) content of 76 fossil bones collected from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Two Medicine (TMF) and Judith River (JRF) Formations of Montana. REE content is distinctive at the formation scale, with TMF samples exhibiting generally higher overall REE content and greater variability in REE enrichment than JRF samples. Moreover, JRF bones exhibit relative enrichment in heavy REE, whereas TMF bones span heavy and light enrichment fields in roughly equal proportions. TMF bones are also characterized by more negative Ce anomalies and greater U enrichment than JRF bones, which is consistent with more oxidizing diagenetic conditions in the TMF. Bonebeds in both formations show general consistency in REE content, with no indication of spatial or temporal mixing within sites. Previous studies, however, suggest that the bonebeds in question are attritional assemblages that accumulated over considerable time spans. The absence of geochemical evidence for mixing is consistent with diagenesis transpiring in settings that remained chemically and hydrologically stable during recrystallization. Lithology-related patterns in REE content were also compared, and TMF bones recovered from fluvial sandstones show relative enrichment in heavy REE when compared with bones recovered from fine-grained floodplain deposits. In contrast, JRF bones, regardless of lithologic context (sandstone versus mudstone), exhibit similar patterns of REE uptake. This result is consistent with previous reconstructions that suggest that channel-hosted microfossil bonebeds of the JRF developed via the reworking of preexisting concentrations embedded in the interfluve. Geochemical data further indicate that reworked elements were potentially delivered to channels in a recrystallized condition, which is consistent with rapid adsorption of REE postmortem.

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