A chronostratigraphic framework for the upper Stormberg Group: Implications for the Triassic-Jurassic boundary in southern Africa

Bordy, Emese M.; Abrahams, Miengah; Sharman, Glenn R.; Viglietti, Pia A.; Benson, Roger B.J.; McPhee, Blair W.; Barrett, Paul M.; Sciscio, Lara; Condon, Daniel; Mundil, Roland; Rademan, Zandri; Jinnah, Zubair; Clark, James M.; Suarez, Celina A.; Chapelle, Kimberley E.J.; Choiniere, Jonah N.. 2020 A chronostratigraphic framework for the upper Stormberg Group: Implications for the Triassic-Jurassic boundary in southern Africa. Earth-Science Reviews, 203, 103120.

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The upper Stormberg Group (Elliot and Clarens formations) of the main Karoo Basin is well-known for its fossil vertebrate fauna, comprising early branching members of lineages including mammals, dinosaurs, and turtles. Despite 150 years of scientific study, the upper Stormberg Group lacks radioisotopic age constraints and remains coarsely dated via imprecise faunal correlations. Here we synthesise previous litho- and magnetostratigraphic studies, and present a comprehensive biostratigraphic review of the upper Stormberg fauna. We also present the results of the first geochronological assessment of the unit across the basin, using U-Pb dates derived from detrital zircons obtained from tuffaceous sandstones and siltstones, the youngest of which are considered maximum depositional ages. Our results confirm that the Elliot Formation contains the Triassic–Jurassic boundary, making it one of the few fossiliferous continental units that records the effects of the end-Triassic Mass Extinction event. Our work suggests a mid-Norian–Rhaetian age for the lower Elliot Formation and a Hettangian–Sinemurian age for the upper Elliot Formation, although the precise stratigraphic position of the Triassic/Jurassic (Rhaetian/Hettangian) boundary remains somewhat uncertain. A mainly Pliensbachian age is obtained for the Clarens Formation. The new dates allow direct comparison with better-calibrated Triassic-Jurassic faunas of the Western Hemisphere (e.g., Chinle and Los Colorados formations). We show that sauropodomorph, but not ornithischian or theropod, dinosaurs were well-established in the main Karoo Basin ~220 million years ago, and that typical Norian faunas (e.g., aetosaurs, phytosaurs) are either rare or absent in the lower Elliot Formation, which is paucispecific compared to the upper Elliot. While this is unlikely the result of geographic sampling biases, it could be due to historical sampling intensity differences.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 00128252
Date made live: 28 Jul 2020 12:26 +0 (UTC)

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