Abstract

A paleontological reconnaissance survey on Cretaceous and Paleogene terrestrial units along the Yukon River drainage through much of east-central Alaska has provided new chronostratigraphic constraints, paleoclimatological data, and the first information on local biodiversity within an ancient, high-latitude ecosystem. The studied unnamed rock unit is most notable for its historic economic gold placer deposits, but our survey documents its relevance as a source rock for Mesozoic terrestrial vertebrates, invertebrates, and associated flora. Specifically, new U-Pb ages from detrital zircons combined with ichnological data are indicative of a Late Cretaceous age for at least the lower section of the studied rock unit, previously considered to be representative of nearly exclusively Paleogene deposition. Further, the results of our survey show that this sedimentary rock unit preserves the first record of dinosaurs in the vast east-central Alaska region. Lastly, paleobotanical data, when compared to correlative rock units, support previous interpretations that the Late Cretaceous continental ecosystem of Alaska was heterogeneous in nature and seasonal.

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