Concurrence of Late Triassic Lithostratigraphic, Radioisotopic, and Biostratigraphic Data Support a Carnian Age for the Popo Agie Formation (Chugwater Group), Wyoming, USA

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The Upper Triassic Popo Agie Formation of the Chugwater Group of Wyoming, northeastern Utah, and northwestern Colorado has been an enigmatic unit since its definition and is commonly excluded from large-scale studies of continental Upper Triassic strata in the western USA. Lithostratigraphic correlations of Popo Agie Formation outcrops are documented from west-central Wyoming through northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado, which demonstrates the presence of the Popo Agie Formation throughout this region. Unique detrital zircon age distributions have led previous workers to hypothesize a paleodrainage connecting basal units of the Dockum in west Texas and eastern New Mexico, USA, with the Gartra Grit, a basal unit of the Popo Agie in northeastern Utah. Biostratigraphically informative taxa such as parasuchid phytosaurs in the absence of leptosuchmorph phytosaurs support an assignment of the Gartra Grit and Popo Agie Formation to the Otischalkian estimated holochronozone. We present the first detrital zircon age distributions for the Popo Agie Formation. Multidimensional scaling analysis of zircon populations shows that the Popo Agie samples are similar to other Upper Triassic units surrounding the Ancestral Uncompahgre Highlands, Central Colorado Trough, and the Ancestral Front Range. Additionally, we present the first maximum depositional ages (youngest population) for the Popo Agie Formation at a location where the top of the ochre unit is no older than 225 ± 4 Ma, and the upper purple to ochre transition is no older than 230 ± 5 Ma. By leveraging existing biostratigraphy, regional lithostratigraphy, and new radioisotopic ages we temporally constrain the Popo Agie Formation, enabling us to integrate the upper Chugwater Group, Chinle Formation, and Dockum Group strata into a testable Late Triassic chronostratigraphic framework for the western USA. The consilience of data support a Carnian age for the majority (if not entirety) of the Popo Agie Formation, making this—and equivalent strata in the Dockum Group (i.e., Camp Springs Conglomerate, and strata of the Tecolotito and Los Esteros members of the Santa Rosa Formation)—among the oldest continental Late Triassic stratigraphic units in the western USA.