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Evidence for Paleocene dinosaurs in the Ojo Alamo Sandstone, San Juan Basin, New Mexico

December 31, 2000

Dinosaur fossils from the Ojo Alamo Sandstone, San Juan Basin, New Mexico, have been a puzzle to geologists for decades because other stratigraphic and paleontologic evidence indicates that this formation is Paleocene in age. The Paleocene age of the Ojo Alamo is based on the following evidence: (1) the lowermost part of the Nacimiento Formation, which conformably overlies and intertongues with the Ojo Alamo Sandstone in the Ojo Alamo type area in the southern part of the basin, contains Paleocene (Puercan) mammalian fossils; (2) plant megafossils collected from the Ojo Alamo indicate a Tertiary age for this rock unit; (3) pollen-productive rock samples collected from the Ojo Alamo at several localities in the basin have, without exception, yielded Paleocene-age palynomorph assemblages, and conversely, no Cretaceous pollen has ever been reported from Ojo Alamo rock samples. We report here the first discovery of Paleocene palynomorphs from Ojo Alamo Sandstone outcrops in the northern San Juan Basin. The pollen-producing rock samples were collected from a coaly, carbonaceous shale bed 12-m above the base of the Ojo Alamo and 3-m below the level of a large hadrosaur femur (1310-mm long and weighing about 130 kg) collected from this site. The bone was recovered from a cobble-to-boulder conglomeratic sandstone but shows no evidence of abrasion by erosion indicating almost instant burial after death of the animal and early mineralization of the femur. It is our opinion that this bone was not reworked from underlying Cretaceous strata. The data from the San Juan River site indicate that dinosaurs did not die out at the end of the Cretaceous in the San Juan Basin, but lived on for as much as a few hundred thousand years into the Paleocene before finally becoming extinct.

Publication Year 2000
Title Evidence for Paleocene dinosaurs in the Ojo Alamo Sandstone, San Juan Basin, New Mexico
Authors James E. Fassett, Spencer G. Lucas
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Bulletin - New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
Index ID 70226489
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse