The lower Eocene Willwood Formation in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming preserves a rich and diverse mammalian and floral record. The paleomagnetic behavior of the sequence of floodplain paleosols of varying degrees of maturation ranges from excellent to poor. We present a magnetostratigraphic section for a composite section near Worland, Wyoming, by using a set of strict criteria for interpreting the step-wise alternating field and thermal demagnetization data of 266 samples from 90 sites throughout the composite section. Correlation to the geomagnetic reversal time scale was achieved by combining magnetostratigraphic and biostratigraphic data from this section, from a section in the Clark's Fork Basin in northern Wyoming, and from DSDP Site 550, with the isotopic data determined on a tuff near the top of our section. Our correlation suggests that the Bighorn Basin composite section in the Worland area spans from within Chron C24r to near the top of Chron C24n, or from approximately 55 to 52 Ma. This correlation places the Paleocene/Eocene boundary within the vicinity of the base of the section. Cryptochron C24r.6 of Cande and Kent is tentatively identified some 100 m above the base of the section. The temporal framework provided here enables correlation of the mammalian biostratigraphy of the Bighorn Basin to other continental sequences as well as to marine records. It also provides independent chronological information for the calculation of sediment accumulation rates to constrain soil maturation rates. We exclude an age as young as 53 Ma for the Paleocene/Eocene boundary and support older ages, as recommended in recent time scales. The location of a tuff dated at 52.8 ?? 0.3 Ma at the older boundary C24n.1 is consistent with the age of 52.5 Ma estimated by Cande and Kent and inconsistent with that of 53.7 Ma, from Harland et al. ?? 1994.
Additional publication details
Magnetostratigraphy of the Willwood Formation, Bighorn Basin, Wyoming: new constraints on the location of Paleocene/Eocene boundary