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Geological Sciences

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Purple Bench is a middle Eocene fossil locality in the Devil’s Graveyard Formation of the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas. In addition to yielding a range of taxa characteristic of the Uintan North American Land Mammal Age, the Purple Bench locality is noteworthy in documenting a number of endemic species that are known only from the site. Despite the Uintan character of the mammalian fauna, the absolute age of Purple Bench is a matter of debate. This uncertainty stems from the wide interval of time encompassed by current radiometric dates bracketing the Purple Bench locality and from conflicting magnetostratigraphic correlations in the Devil’s Graveyard Formation. This study constrains the absolute age of the Purple Bench locality through detrital zircon U-Pb geochronological analyses. For these analyses, 147 new detrital zircon U-Pb ages were collected from five tuffaceous sandstones and reworked tuff horizons and analyzed via Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICPMS). These new detrital zircon U-Pb geochronological analyses suggest a maximum depositional age of 43.7 +0.8 / -0.2 Ma for the Purple Bench tuff, a significant marker horizon immediately below the Purple Bench locality. These new maximum depositional age dates presented here provide constraints on the true depositional age of the lower and middle members of the Devil’s Graveyard Formation, bringing clarity to the previously ambiguous age of the fossil-bearing Purple Bench locality. The age constraints presented here also aid the characterization of the temporally and spatially variable Uintan North American Land Mammal Age.


This article was originally published Open Access in Palaeontologia Electronica. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.


Palaeontologia Electronica

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.


Copyright: February 2020 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology