DOI: 10.1130/b36999.1 ISSN: 0016-7606

The “Judith River−Belly River problem” revisited (Montana-Alberta-Saskatchewan): New perspectives on the correlation of Campanian dinosaur-bearing strata based on a revised stratigraphic model updated with CA-ID-TIMS U-Pb geochronology

Raymond R. Rogers, David A. Eberth, Jahandar Ramezani
  • Geology

Terrestrial strata of the Judith River−Belly River wedge, widely exposed in the plains of north-central Montana, southern Alberta, and southwestern Saskatchewan, were pivotal in early stratigraphic investigations of the Western Interior of North America and are renowned to this day for their spectacular preservation of Late Cretaceous fossils, most notably dinosaurs. Correlation of the Judith River Formation in Montana with the Foremost, Oldman, and Dinosaur Park Formations (= Belly River Group) in Canada has been challenging for a variety of reasons, including lithostratigraphic complexities, legacy bentonite ages of limited comparability, and distinctly different stratigraphic models on opposite sides of the international border. An updated model calibrated with U-Pb zircon ages provides an improved framework for stratigraphic analysis. New geochronology indicates that the Oldman−Dinosaur Park discontinuity in Dinosaur Provincial Park correlates in age with the mid-Judith discontinuity in the Judith River Formation in Montana, which is interpreted as an expansion surface linked to a major pulse of accommodation and onset of the Bearpaw transgression at ca. 76.3 Ma. The regionally expressed shift in alluvial facies marking the mid-Judith discontinuity can be traced in well logs from Montana to southern Canada, where it loses distinction and transitions to a subsurface signature typical of the Oldman−Dinosaur Park discontinuity, which in turn can be traced north to Dinosaur Provincial Park and beyond. Across this expanse, both discontinuities parallel the Eagle/Milk River shoulder at approximately the same stratigraphic height, confirming their chronostratigraphic significance. These findings have clear implications for regional correlation and the evolution of alluvial depositional systems in a foreland basin setting, and they afford an opportunity to evaluate existing interpretations and advance understanding of the stratigraphy and paleontology of the Judith River−Belly River wedge. The term “Judith River−Belly River discontinuity” should be used henceforth to refer to the chronostratigraphically significant stratal discontinuity that subdivides the Judith River−Belly River wedge throughout the plains of north-central Montana, southern Alberta, and southwestern Saskatchewan.

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