The record of time in cratonic interior strata: Does exceptionally slow subsidence necessarily result in exceptionally poor stratigraphic completeness?


A newly constructed a high-resolution chronostratigraphic and lithostratigraphic framework for the Upper Cambrian and Lower Ordovician Sauk Sequence in the cratonic interior of North America provides insight into the long-standing question of how time is recorded in sedimentary packages deposited in shallow epeiric seas across regions with exceptionally slow subsidence. It reveals that time is recorded in these strata in a manner fundamentally similar to the way it is in a number of nearshore marine-dominated sedimentary packages that were deposited under conditions of markedly higher subsidence rates. The principal consequence of slow subsidence in the cratonic interior appears largely to be a pronounced shingling of chronostratigraphic units perpendicular to depositional strike. An evaluation of relative stratigraphic completeness of the Upper Cambrian and Lower Ordovician of this region suggests that a number of routine interpretations and assumptions must be re-evaluated. Our results are inconsistent with the common interpretation that: (1) cratonic interior sedimentary packages are exceptionally stratigraphically incomplete; and (2) that conditions of very slow subsidence and a bathymetrically shallow shelf by themselves preclude deposition of a relatively complete record of time. In refuting these conventional assumptions, our conclusions have implications for a variety of approaches that require a fundamental understanding of the stratigraphic record of time, such as efforts to construct eustatic sea level curves and evaluations of the fossil record of evolution.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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Journal Title

Special Paper - Geological Association of Canada