A Chronostratigraphic Assessment of the Moenave Formation, USA Using C-Isotope Chemostratigraphy and Detrital Zircon Geochronology: Implications for the Terrestrial End Triassic Extinction

Document Type


Publication Date



The Late Triassic is a period of abrupt climate change associated with a disruption to the global carbon cycle usually ascribed to the emplacement of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP). Geochronologic, paleontologic, and geochemical studies have shown that the CAMP was likely the major factor for the end-Triassic extinction (ETE), however, difficulties correlating and dating terrestrial strata has left the nature of the terrestrial extinction in question. The lacustrine Whitmore Point Member (WPM) of the Moenave Formation is ideal for investigating these details because it is reported to be Late Triassic to Early Jurassic. However, currently there are conflicting age constraints between biostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy. In this study we attempt to elucidate the ETE by incorporating C-isotope chemostratigraphy and detrital zircon geochronology. Detrital zircon geochronology suggests the upper part of the Dinosaur Canyon Member (DCM) is younger (201.33 ± 0.07/0.12/0.25 Ma) than the ETE (201.564 Ma) suggesting the ETE is in the middle to lower DCM, in agreement with track biostratigraphy (first occurrence of Eubrontes, Anomoepus, and Batrachopus). Meanwhile a distinct negative carbon isotope (NCIE) excursion (−5.5‰) occurs at the base of the WPM at Potter Canyon, AZ with a more subtle NCIE at the base of the WPM at Black Canyon, UT (−2.0‰) that may correlate to the initial NCIE at the ETE. However, the WPM NCIE is correlated to the preservation of organic C (relative %C) suggesting it may be either related to local lake productivity and biases in organic matter preservation or may be a negative CIE in the Jurassic Hettangian stage. With the addition of the detrital zircon data, we suggest the M2r reversal at the base of the WPM is a reversal in the Hettangian (the H24r, H25r, or H26r) and the ETE is within the DCM. Additional C-isotope analysis of the DCM is necessary to determine if the initial NCIE that is the hallmark of the ETE occurs in terrestrial strata in western Pangea. However, our WPM C-isotope record is the most complete C-isotope record from terrestrial strata of western Pangea to date and in addition to detrital zircon geochronology, magnetostratigraphy, and biostratigraphy, will be used to provide a framework for future chronologic and paleoclimatic studies.