The Lower Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation preserves several vertebrate faunas and has the potential of providing critical timing information pertaining to Early Cretaceous dinosaurs and the Sierran magmatic arc. Historically, the Morrison/Cedar Mountain contact and the duration of the unconformity between them have been difficult or impossible to determine because 1) the formations were deposited in similar environments, 2) the basal Cedar Mountain Formation is composed of reworked Morrison Formation, and 3) there are no radiometric ages for the lower Cedar Mountain Formation. A stratigraphic study through central Utah reveals a diagnostic suite of pedogenic and sedimentologic characters across the previously enigmatic boundary. The uppermost Morrison Formation is characterized by redoximorphic paleosol features, including iron concentrations, manganese-coated grains, and intense red-purple-green mottling. Upsection increases in chert-pebble lags and channelized conglomerates within the paleosol section indicate a period of reduced accommodation space in the Tithonian. The paleosols are usually capped by a groundwater or pedogenic carbonate. This unit is consistently present from Green River, Utah to the Utah-Colorado border. The lower Cedar Mountain Formation above this package is a poorly sorted mixture of fine-grained material and sand-gravel sized chert grains. Within a sequence stratigraphic framework, these characters record a terrestrial sequence boundary in the uppermost Morrison Formation and degradational-aggradational systems tracts in the Cedar Mountain Formation. To resolve the lack of age control for the basal Cedar Mountain Formation, a geochronologic zircon study was conducted near the Dalton Wells dinosaur quarry, Moab, Utah. The Dalton Wells quarry, along with numerous other fossil assemblages occurs in the basal Yellowcat Member. Zircons from the Dalton Wells quarry and a correlative eggshell site place the age of this horizon near the Barremian/Aptian boundary at ~124 Ma. Thus, the Yellowcat fauna is time equivalent with the feathered dinosaurs of the Yixian Formation, of Liaoning, China. This age constrains the Morrison/Cedar Mountain unconformity to a period of magmatic quiescence in western North America from 148 Ma-124 Ma. The basal Cedar Mountain age coincides with renewed magmatic activity at ~125 Ma. The Cedar Mountain Formation covers a period of 27 Myr and likely contains numerous small unconformities.



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Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



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Morrison Formation, Cedar Mountain Formation, boundary, paleosol, dinosaur, unconformity, Jurassic, Cretaceous, geochronology, zircon, volcanic ash, ages



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