Floodplains and paleosols of Pakistan Neogene and Wyoming Paleogene deposits: a comparative study

Anna K. Behrensmeyer, Brian J. Willis, Jay Quade

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77 Scopus citations


Comparative study of fossil-bearing fluvi' deposits in the Eocene Willwood Formation of northern Wyoming and the Miocene Chinji Formation of northern Pakistan indicate how tectonic and climatic processes operating at different scales controlled physical and chemical features of floodplain environments and affected preservation of the paleontological record. The architecture of Willwood Fm. floodplain deposits represents a combination of avulsion-belt sediment packages and overbank sediments that formed alluvial ridges. The architecture of the Chinji Fm. floodplain deposits was controlled by widely distributed crevasse-splay deposition and floodplain topography. Similarities in individual paleosol-bounded overbank sequences from the two formations indicates that the internal structure of such deposits can be independent of channel belt proximity to areas of aggradation. Chinji Fm. paleosols have little vertical zonation and show no consistent pattern of lateral change in relation to major channels, while overbank paleosols in the Willwood Fm, exhibit considerable soil horizon development and a pattern of increasing maturity from alluvial ridge to distal floodplain. The "pedofacies model" of Bown and Kraus (1987) based on such lateral trends in the Willwood paleosols is not applicable to the Chinji Fm. Plant and animal fossils are abundant in the Willwood overbank deposits, with vertebrate remains concentrated in paleosol A horizons. Plant remains are rare in the Chinji Fm. and vertebrate fossils occur primarily in channel fills rather than in paleosols. These differences relate to contrasting patterns of floodplain deposition and to levels of oxidation that controlled penecontemporaneous recycling of organic material, particularly in paleosols. Different large-scale climatic and tectonic controls on temperature and rainfall, water table fluctuations, and soil biota are proposed to account for the differences in organic preservation. Large and small-scale environmental processes also affected spatial and temporal resolution of the organic record, resulting in important differences in the paleoecological and evolutionary information that can be reconstructed from the two sequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-60
Number of pages24
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - May 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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