Condensed transgressive shell beds, rich in paleobiological information, are common in the Phanerozoic stratigraphic record, but their interpretation is complicated by the uncertain amount of time that each deposit represents. Miocene strata exposed in the Calvert Cliffs (Maryland, USA) are known for a series of regionally extensive, densely packed, meters-thick shell beds that serve as global exemplars of shallow-water condensation during marine transgression and onlap. Applying Sr isotope stratigraphy to calcitic scallops from the base and top of the oldest of these beds (Shattuck Zone 10), we demonstrate that its most densely fossiliferous part accumulated over the interval of 16.60–15.95 Ma, reflecting approximately 0.65 ±0.20 Myr of skeletal accumulation within the Miocene Climatic Optimum, with a likely 0.15 Myr-scale of time averaging per each firmground-bounded subunit. Both of these estimates are an order of magnitude longer than previous best estimates based on radiocarbon-dated Holocene analogs. Sr isotopes confirm subtle low-angle erosional beveling of the main body of Zone 10, truncating 0.3-Myr of record in updip sections, and demonstrate that a down-dip wedge of less shelly sand is an entirely younger (by ∼ 0.5 Myr) interleaved body. This condensation, beveling, and inter-shingling within Zone 10 quantified here sets a precedent for the magnitude of lateral and vertical temporal variability within condensed transgressive deposits, relevant to paleobiologic and other geohistorical analysis, and justifies the interpretation of comparably complex temporal fabrics based upon similar physical stratigraphic features found elsewhere in this and other very thin stratigraphic records.

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