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The Permian–Triassic transition in Colorado

December 1, 2016

The Lykins Formation and its equivalents in Colorado are a stratigraphically poorly constrained suite of redbeds and intercalated stromatolitic carbonates, which is hypothesized to span the Permian-Triassic boundary. Herein we present a preliminary detrital zircon geochronology, new fossil occurrences, and δ13C chemostratigraphy for exposures along the Front Range and in southeastern Colorado, to refine understanding of the unit's age and depositional history.

Detrital zircons from the uppermost Lykins Formation and an overlying eolianite consist of a complex and highly diverse primary and multi-cycle grain population transported from Laurentian and Gondwanan terranes, potentially both by wind and water. Youngest concordant zircons do not rule out deposition of the uppermost Lykins Formation during a portion of Early Triassic time. Conodonts from the lower Lykins Formation require Middle Permian (Guadalupian) deposition. Conodont alteration indices of 1 indicate the unit has a shallow burial history and is amenable to paleomagnetic inquiry. Conodonts, together with other vertebrate, invertebrate, microfossil, and trace fossils, suggest a very shallow to emergent marine origin for the unit's most substantial carbonates, and hint at a marine origin for the unit's intercalated gypsum-anhydrite members. Chemostratigraphy corroborates field evidence of emergence and karst development capping certain units, like the Forelle Limestone Member of the Lykins Formation, where potential sequence boundaries appear to be punctuated by a short-lived meteoric signature.

Results presented here are a progress report of ongoing work in these successions. This field trip consists of a brief tour through exposures of the Lykins Formation, in which we will examine well-known localities as well as view new ones for which we seek insights.