[Aqualist] Thoughts on "New" and "Old" Quaternary Stratigraphy for Micropaleontologists
larmand at science.mq.edu.au
Mon Jul 13 16:32:21 EST 2009
This was received by me from the Diatom List today and I thought it
useful as a follow on to Brad Pillans message some time ago on changes
to Quaternary Stratigraphy.
I though some of the background papers, web pages and references in the
following discussion may be of use to the Australian Quaternary
community in general even though some discussion is more relevant to
N.hemisphere researchers. The personal views expressed in the text are
not mine, but those of the sender to the Diatom List.
Micropaleontologists need to be aware of new and significant
changes in Quaternary Stratigraphy. They are the definition of
the Holocene Quaternary boundary, the redefinition of the
Quaternary, and the age of the Illinoian Stage. In terms of the
old, antiquate and obsolete Quaternary stage nomenclature
useless for biostratigraphic and paleogeographic studies and
erroneous dates for the start of the Sangamonian and Illinoian s
tages continue to be used in peer-reviewed papers in journals
and books by a few paleontologists, micropaleontologists, and
Holocene Pleistocene Boundary Definition Proposal Ratified
One facet of Quaternary Chronotratigraphy that should be of interest
to micropaleontologists is a proposal for a Global Stratotype Section
and Point (GSSP) for the base of the Holocene Series/Epoch. The
proposed GSSP is an ice core from Greenland that contains a very
detailed proxy climatic record, which allows the identification of
the first indications of climatic warming at the end of the Younger
Dryas/Greenland Stadial 1 cold phase, to be precisely located in time.
Based upon detailed analysis of physical and chemical parameters
of the ice core and multi-parameter annual layer counting, the start
of the Holocene Epoch is placed at 11,700+/-99 calendar yr b2k
(before AD 2000). The International Union of Geological Sciences
ratified this as the GSSP for the base of the Holocene Epoch
Redefinition of the Quaternary
Similarly, a proposal to finalize the ongoing controversy over
whether or not to discard the Quaternary as a stratigraphic term,
what rank it should have, and its lower boundary has been voted
upon and approved. The Quaternary will remain as the period
of time when humans took up tools and the world began slipping
in and out of the ice ages. The beginning of the Quaternary Period
and the Pleistocene Epoch, as approved by the International
Commission on Stratigraphy, has been moved from 1.8 million
years ago (mya) to 2.588 mya (Kerr 2009; Mascarelli 2009).
Age of North American Illinoian Stage Significantly Revised
The Illinoian Stage is the period of geological time preceding the
last interglacial, the Sangamonian Stage. Depending on how it is
used, the Sangamon Stage is temporally equivalent to either
(sensu stricto) only Marine Isotope Substage 5e only and the
Eeming of Europe or all or Marine Isotope Substage 5 (71/80
to 125/130 thousand years ago (ka)). In North America, the
Illinoian Stage is defined as the period of geologic time during
which the middle Pleistocene sediments comprising the Illinoian
Glacial Lobe accumulated (Willman and Frye 1970). Willman
and Frye (1970) formally designated the glacial tills within the
Illinoian Glacial Lobe as the Glasford Formation and their
associated glacial outwash and other fluvial sands and gravels
as the Pearl Formation. Richmond and Fullerton (1986) and
Johnson (1986) argued that these sediments represented the
deposits of two glacial periods separated by an interglacial
paleosol called the Pike Soil. They argued that the Radner and
Hulick till members of the Glasford Formation represent a glacial
period equivalent in time to Marine Isotope Stage 6 (130 to
191 ka); the Pike Soil (paleosol) represents an interglacial period
equivalent in time to Marine Isotope Stage 7 (191 to 243 ka);
and the Kellerville Till Member of the Glasford Formation
represents a glacial period equivalent in time to Marine Isotope
Stage 8 (243 to 300 ka). Since 1986, it has been accepted
among Quaternary geologists that Illinoian Stage consisted
of two glacial and one interglacial periods and ranged in age
from 130 to 300 ka.
However, what had been considered the standard age of the North
American Illinoian State was greatly revised by recent geologic
mapping conducted within the Middle Illinois River Valley area of
Illinois (McKay 2007; McKay and Berg 2008; McKay et al. 2008).
As a part of this geologic mapping they cored Pleistocene sediments
that fill an ancient, buried Mississippi River valley in north-central
Illinois. The Pleistocene sediments filling this ancient valley
included full sequence of the glacial sediments belonging to
the Illinoian Glacial Lobe. These sediments consisted of beds
of the Radner, Hulick, and Kellerville till members of the
Glasford Formation interbedded with and overlain and underlain
by glaciofluvial and fluvial sediments of the Pearl Formation. By
using Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating to date
sand beds of the Pearl Formation interbedded with and overlaying
and underlying the Illinoian Glacial Lobe glacial deposits of the
Glasford Formation from these cores, they found the Illinoian
Stage represents one glacial period, Marine Isotope Stage 6, and
only ranges in age from 130,000 to 191,000 ka (McKay 2007;
McKay and Berg 2008; McKay et al. 2008). Therefore, the North
American Pre-Illinoian Stage ended at 191,000 ka, not 300,000 ka
as previously thought. As a result, the Yarmouth Soil (paleosol)
underlying the Glasford Formation developed during the
Pre-Illinoian Stage over a period of geologic time equivalent to
Marine Isotope stages 7, 8, 9, 10,and 11 (191 to 374 ka) in
eastern Illinois and Marine Isotope stages 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13,
and 14 (191 to 563 ka) in western Illinois.
Use of obsolete terminology by paleontologists, micropalenotologists, and
It has been over 30 years since the classic North American Yarmouth
interglacial, Kansan glacial, Aftonian interglacial, and Nebraskan
glacial stage nomenclature has been completely discredited as being
scientifically invalid and, as a result, later merged into the Pre-Illinoian
Stage (Boellstorff, 1978a, 1978b; Hallberg 1980a, 1980b, 1986;
Hallberg et al. 1980; Johnson 1986; Richmond and Fullerton 1986).
Therefore, it is rather surprising to find some paleontologists,
biologist, geologists, and other Earth scientists still insist in using
this long invalidated and abandoned nomenclature. For example,
Traverse (2007) incorrectly states this nomenclature to be the
Pleistocene subdivisions as used in North America in his Figure
15.7. In another case, Petuch and Roberts (2007), Petuch (2004),
and VanLandingham (2004, 2006, 2009) also use this completely
discredited nomenclature as the foundation of their biostratgraphic
analysis and paleogeographical reconstructions. Since the classic
North American glacial and interglacial stage names each have been
found to designate a haphazard collection of multiple interglacial and
glacial deposits that overlap in time, the age assignments for specific
fossils made by Petuch and Roberts (2007), Petuch (2004), and
VanLandingham (2004, 2006, 2009) based on this nomenclature
for their biostratigraphic analysis are of questionable validity as
well as any interpretations made from them. The paleogeographical
interpretations of Petuch and Roberts (2007) and Petuch (2004),
are meaningless because they are based on the completely
discredited presumption that Yarmouth, Kansan, Aftonian, and
Nebraskan sediments and paleosols described in one area either
correlate with or are of same age as Yarmouth, Kansan, Aftonian,
and Nebraskan deposits described in another area. Paleontologists,
micropaleontologists, and biologists need to understand that the
Yarmouth interglacial, Kansan glacial, Aftonian interglacial, and
Nebraskan glacial stages lack any stratigraphic or chronologic
meaning. As a result, the use of them in either the construction of
any biostratigraphic system or paleogeographic maps is largely a
meaningless exercise in terms of paleontology or
Use of erroneous dates by paleontologists, micropaleontologists, and biologists
Finally, another problem that I have noticed in a very few published
papers and books is the use of blatantly erroneous dates for the
beginning of the Sangamonian and Illinoian stages. For example,
I have seen the start of the Sangamonian Stage (sensu lato) stated
as being 220 ka by Harding and Harasewych (2007) and
VanLandingham (2004, 2006, 2009). This date is wrong by 90,000
to 95,000 years from what has been the accepted age range for the
start of the Sangamonian Stage, both sensu lato and sensu stricto,
for almost the last 30 years (Follmer 1983; Richmand and Fullerton
1986; McKay et al. 2008). Similarly, an obviously incorrect date,
430 ka, is used by and VanLandingham (2004, 2006, 2009) for the
start of the Illinoian Stage. This date is 130,000 years too old for
what had been the accepted date for the start of the Illinoian Stage,
300 ka, and is about 239,000 years too old for what is now known
to be the start of the Illinoian Stage, 191 ka (Hallberg 1986;
Richmand and Fullerton 1986; McKay et al. 2008). Because of
the lack of adequate citations, the exact source of such remarkably
erroneous dates for the start of the Illinoian and Sangamonian
Stages is currently unknown. Possibly, the sources for these
incorrect dates are antiquated and obsolete mongraphs, i.e. Heintz
(1973), and papers, i.e. Fillon (1984), which tried to estimate the
age of these stages using unreliable methodologies, stratigraphic
nomenclature, and guesswork before research concerning Marine
Oxygen Isotope stages, deep sea cores, OSL dating, paleomagnetism,
paleopedology, and tephrachronology created a reliable
chronostratigraphic framework for correlating and dating Illinoian
and Sangamonian sediments.
In my opinion, there are two aspects of Quaternary stratigraphy that
paleontologists, a micropaleontologist, and biologists in general need
to be aware of. First, there have been changes in the established dates
for the start of the Holocene Epoch, the start of the Quaternary Period,
and start of the Illinoian Stage. Finally, researchers need to be aware
of misinformation published, even in peer-reviewed papers, about
Quaternary stratigraphy. Such misinformation includes the continued
use of the classic Yarmouth interglacial, Kansan glacial, Aftonian
interglacial, and Nebraskan glacial nomenclature, even though is has
been abandoned starting about 30 years ago after it was shown to lack
any stratigraphic and chronologic validity and the use of incorrect and
long discarded dates for the beginning of the Sangamonian and
Note: Dates for Marine Isotope stages are derived from Lisiecki (2005),
Which is based on the research of Lisiecki and Raymo (2005).
Boellstorff, J., 1978a, Chronology of some Late Cenozoic deposits
from the central United States and the Ice Ages. Transactions of the
Nebraska Academy of Science. vol. 6, pp. 3549
Boellstorff, J., 1978b, North American Pleistocene stages reconsidered
in the light of probable Pliocene-Pleistocene continental glaciation.
Science. vol. 202, pp. 305307.
Follmer, L. R., 1983, Sangamon and Wisconsin pedogenesis in the
Midwestern United States. In S. C. Porter and H. E. Wright, eds.,
p. 138-144, Late-Quaternary Environments of the United States, v. 1,
The late Pleistocene. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis,
Fillon, R. H., 1984, Continental glacial stratigraphy, marine evidence
of glaciation and insights into continental-marine correlations. In N.
Healy-Williams, ed., pp. 149-206, Principles of Pleistocene
Stratigraphy applied to the Gulf of Mexico. IHRDC, Boston,
Hallberg, G. R., ed., 1980a, Pleistocene stratigraphy in east-central Iowa.
Technical information Series. no. 10. Iowa Geological Survey Bureau,
Hallberg, G. R., ed., 1980b, Illinoian and Pre-Illinoian stratigraphy of
southeast Iowa and adjacent Illinois.Technical information Series. no. 11.
Iowa Geological Survey Bureau, Ames, Iowa.
Hallberg, G. R., 1986, Pre-Wisconsinan glacial stratigraphy of the central
plains region in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri: Quaternary
Science Reviews. vol. 5, pp. 1115.
Hallberg, G. R., T. E. Fenton, T. J. Kemmis, and G. A. Miller, 1980,
Yarmouth Revisited: MidwestFriends of the Pleistocene 27th Field
Conference. Guidebook no. 3. Iowa Geological Survey Bureau, Ames,
Heintz, L. F., 1973, Geologic History of Utah. Brigham Young
University Research Studies Geology Series. vol. 20, part 3, no. 8,
Harding, J. M., and M. G. Harasewych, 2007, Two new modern
records of the southern oyster drill Stramonita haemastoma floridana
(Conrad, 1837) in Chesapeake Bay, USA. The Nautilus. vol. 121, no. 3,
Johnson, W. H., 1986, Stratigraphy and correlation of the glacial
deposits of the Lake Michigan lobe prior to 14 ka BP. Quaternary
Science Reviews. vol. 5, pp. 17-22.
Traverse, A., 2007, Paleopalynology. Topics in Geobiology, vol. 28.
Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands
Kerr, R. A., 2009, The Quaternary Period Wins Out in the End.
Science. vol. 324, no. 5932, p. 1249.
Lisiecki, L.E., 2005, Ages of MIS boundaries. LR04 Benthic
Stack web page, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.
Lisiecki, L.E., and M.E. Raymo, 2005, A Pliocene-Pleistocene
stack of 57 globally distributed benthic d18O records.
Paleoceanography. vol. 20, PA1003.
Mascarelli, A. L., 2009, Quaternary geologists win timescale vote.
Nature. vol. 459, no. 7242, p. 624.
McKay, E. D., 2007, Six Rivers, Five Glaciers, and an Outburst
Flood: the Considerable Legacy of the Illinois River. Proceedings
of the 2007 Governor's Conference on the Management of the
Illinois River System: Our continuing Commitment, 11th Biennial
Conference, Oct. 2-4, 2007. College of Agricultural, Consumer
and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-
Champaign, Illinois. 11 p.
McKay, E. D., III, and R. C. Berg, 2008, Optical ages spanning two
glacial-interglacial cycles from deposits of the ancient Mississippi
River, north-central Illinois. Geological Society of America
Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 40, No. 5, p. 78.
A 22 MB powerpoint presentation for the above abstract can be found at
McKay, E. D., III, R. C. Berg, A. K. Hansel, T. J. Kemmis, and
A. J. Stumpf, 2008, Quaternary Deposits and History of the Ancient
Mississippi River Valley, North-Central Illinois. Fifty-first Midwest
Friends of the Pleistocene Field Trip, An ISGS Centennial Field
Trip, May 13-15, 2005. Guidebook no. 35, Illinois State Geological
Survey, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.
Petuch, E. J., 2004, Cenozoic Seas. CRC Press, Florida Atlantic
University, Boca Raton, Florida.
Petuch, E. J., and C. E. Roberts, 2007, The Geology of the Everglades
and Adjacent. CRC Press, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton,
Richmond, G. M., and D. S. Fullerton, 1986, Summation of Quaternary
glaciations in the United States of America. Quaternary Science Reviews.
vol. 5, pp. 183-196.
Roy, M., P. U. Clark, R.W. Barendregt, J.R., Glasmann, and R.J. Enkin,
2004, Glacial stratigraphy and paleomagnetism of late Cenozoic deposits
of the north-central United States. Geological Society of America Bulletin.
vol. 116, no. 1-2, pp. 3041.
Walker, M., S. Johnsen, S. O. Rasmussen, T. Popp, J.-P. Steffensen,
P. Gibbard, W. Hoek, J. Lowe, J. Andrews, S. Björck, L. C. Cwynar,
K. Hughen, P. Kershaw, B. Kromer, T. Litt, D. J. Lowe, T. Nakagawa,
R. Newnham, and J. Schwande, 2009, Formal definition and dating of
the GSSP (Global Stratotype Section and Point) for the base of the
Holocene using the Greenland NGRIP ice core, and selected auxiliary
records. Journal of Quaternary Science. vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 3-17.
Willman, H.B., and J.C. Frye, 1970, Pleistocene Stratigraphy of
Illinois. Bulletin no. 94, Illinois State Geological Survey,
VanLandingham, S.L., 2004, Corroboration of Sangamonian age
of artifacts from the Valsequiuo region, Puebla, Mexico by means
of diatom biostratigraphy. Micropaleontology. vol. 50, no. 4,
VanLandingham, S.L., 2006, Diatom evidence for autochthonous
artifact deposition in the Valsequillo region, Puebla, Mexico
during the Sangamonian (sensu lato = 80,000 to ca. 220,000 yr
BP and Illinoian (220,000 to 430,000 yr BP)). Journal of
Paleoliminology. Vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 101-116.
VanLandingham, S.L., 2009, Use of diatom biostratigraphy in
determining a minimum (Sangamonian = 80,000--ca.220,000 yr. BP)
and a maximum (Illinoian = 220,000--430,00 yr. BP) age for the
Hueyatlaco artifacts, Puebla, Mexico. in J. P. Kociolek, E. C.
Theriot, and R. J. Stevenson, eds., pp. 15-36, Diatom Taxonomy,
Ultrastructure and Ecology: Modern Methods and Timeless Questions
A tribute to Eugene F. Stoermer. Beihefte zur Nova Hedwigia no.135.
Gebr. Borntraeger Verlagsbuchhandlung, Science Publishers,
Related Web Pages
1. Global correlation tables for the Quaternary
2. Gibbard, P.L., S. Boreham, K.M. Cohen and A. Moscariello,
2007, Global chronostratigraphical correlation table for the
last 2.7 million years v. 2007b. Subcommission on
Quaternary Stratigraphy, Department of Geography,
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England
3. Aber, J.S., 2006, Regional Glaciation of Kansas and Nebraska.
Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas.
4. anonymous, 1997, Glacial Map of North-Central United States.
Work Group on Geospatial Analysis of Glaciated Environments
(GAGE), INQUA Commission on Glaciation, Emporia State
University, Emporia, Kansas.
5. anonymous, 2000, Pre-Wisconsin Glaciation of Central North America.
Work Group on Geospatial Analysis of Glaciated Environments (GAGE),
INQUA Commission on Glaciation, Emporia State University, Emporia,
Some Reccomended Wikipedia Web Pages
1. Sangamonian Stage
2. Illinoian Stage
3. Pre-Illinoian Stage
4. Yarmouthian Interglacial (Stage)
5. Kansan glaciation
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