The age of the St. Peter Sandstone in the central and northern Midcontinent has long been considered equivocal because of the general absence of biostratigraphically useful fossils. Conodonts recovered from the St. Peter Sandstone in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas for this study help place some age constraints on this renowned formation in its northern and western extent. Faunas from the lower St. Peter include Phragmodus flexuosus, Cahabagnathus sp., and Leptochirognathus sp., and a late Whiterockian (Chazyan) correlation is indicated. Juvenile or immature elements of P. flexuosus from these collections show morphologies trending toward P. cognitus and P. inflexus, and paedomorphic derivation of these latter species is proposed. Diverse assemblages of hyaline forms also occur in the St. Peter strata (Erismodus spp., Erraticodon sp., Curtognathus sp., Coleodus sp., Archeognathus sp., Stereoconus sp., others) along with various albid elements (Plectodina sp., Eoplacognathus sp., others). The overlying Glenwood Shale contains abundant conodonts dominated by Phragmodus cognitus, Erismodus sp., and Chirognathus duodactylus, and the fauna is interpreted as an early Mohawkian (Blackriveran) association. Certain thin shale units in the St. Peter-Glenwood succession represent condensed intervals, in part reflected by their exceptionally high conodont abundances. Some organic-rich phosphatic shale units in the lower St. Peter of western Iowa have produced equivalent yields of tens of thousands of conodonts per kilogram, and many Glenwood Shale samples yield thousands of conodonts per kilogram. Previous depositional models have proposed that the St. Peter is primarily a succession of littoral and nearshore facies forming a broadly diachronous transgressive sheet sand. However, broad-scale diachroneity cannot be demonstrated with available biostratigraphic control. The recognition of condensed marine shale units, phosphorites, ironstones, and pyritic hardgrounds in the western facies tract of the St. Peter Sandstone has necessitated a re-evaluation of previous regional models of St. Peter deposition. The St. Peter is interpreted to be a composite stratigraphic interval deposited during a succession of transgressive-regressive sedimentary cycles. Transgressive episodes in some cycles were marked by offshore sediment condensation or starvation within a stratified seaway.
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Ordovician conodonts and stratigraphy of the ST. Peter sandstone and glen wood shale, central United States