High-resolution magnetostratigraphy of the upper Nacimiento formation, San Juan Basin, New Mexico, USA: Implications for Basin evolution and mammalian turnover

Caitlin Leslie, Daniel Peppe, Thomas Williamson, Dario Bilardello, Matthew Heizler, Ross Secord, Tyler Leggett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Lower Paleocene deposits in the San Juan Basin document one of the best records of mammalian change and turnover following the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction and is the type area for the Puercan (Pu) and Torrejonian (To) North America Land Mammal age (NALMA). One of the largest mammalian turnover events in the early Paleocene occurs between the Torrejonian 2 (To2) and Torrejonian 3 (To3) NALMA interval zones. The Nacimiento Formation contains the only deposits in North America where the To2-To3 mammalian turnover can be constrained; however, the precise age and duration of the turnover is poorly understood due to the lack of a precise chronostratigraphic framework. We analyzed paleomagnetic samples, produced a 40Ar/39Ar detrital sanidine age, and developed a detailed lithostratigraphy for four sections of the upper Nacimiento Formation in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico (Kutz Canyon, Escavada Wash, Torreon West and East) to constrain the age and duration of the deposits and the To2-To3 turnover. The polarity stratigraphy for the four sections can be correlated to chrons C27r-C26r of the geomagnetic polarity time scale (GPTS). Using the local polarity stratigraphy for each section, we calculated a mean sediment accumulation rate and developed a precise age model, which allows us to determine the age of important late Torrejonian mammalian localities. Using the assigned ages, we estimate the To2-To3 turnover was relatively rapid and occurred over 120 kyr (60/50 kyr) between 62.59 and 62.47 Ma. This rapid duration of mammalian turnover suggests that it was driven by external forcing factors, such as environmental change driven by the progradation of the distributive fluvial system across the basin and/or changes in regional or global climate. Additionally, comparisons of the mean sediment accumulation rates among the sections that span from the basin margin to the basin center indicate that sediment accumulation rates equalized across the basin from the end of C27r through the start of C26r, suggesting an accommodation minimum in the basin associated with the progradation of a distributive fluvial system into the basin. This accommodation minimum also likely led to the long hiatus of deposition between the Paleocene Nacimiento Formation and the overlying Eocene San Jose Formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-334
Number of pages35
JournalAmerican Journal of Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by SEPM (CL), National Science Foundation EAR-132552 (DP), −1325612 (RS), −0207750 and −1325544 (TEW), American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (PRF#52822-DN18) (DP), Baylor University Department of Geosciences’ Dixon Fund (CL, TL), and the University of Minnesota Institute for Rock Magnetism visiting student fellowship (CL). This is IRM publication #1706. We thank K. Kodama, D. Lofgren, and one anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments and P. Gingerich for the editorial assistance. Thanks to A. Flynn, A. Davis, J. Milligan, and A. Baumgartner for assistance with sample collection and section measuring.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Journal of Science. All rights reserved.


  • Basin evolution
  • Mammalian evolution
  • North American Land Mammal age
  • Paleocene
  • Paleomagnetism
  • Rock magnetism
  • Torrejonian


Dive into the research topics of 'High-resolution magnetostratigraphy of the upper Nacimiento formation, San Juan Basin, New Mexico, USA: Implications for Basin evolution and mammalian turnover'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this