Tuesday, 14 April 2020


Vertipecten fucanus (Dall, 1898), Clallam Formation, WA
Some water-worn samples of the fossil bivalve Vertipecten fucanus from Lower Miocene deposits in the Clallam Formation.

These lovelies were collected on the foreshore near Clallam Bay, Olympic Peninsula, northwestern Washington on a lovely fossil field trip I did with my mother years ago.

Range zones of pectinid bivalves provide a principal means of age determination and correlation of shallow-water, inshore facies from California, through to Washington state and up to the head of the Gulf of Alaska.

Until Addicott's study from 1976, the area was considered middle Miocene. The new Lower Miocene designation can be credited in large part to the restricted stratigraphic range of Vertipecten fucanus (Dall, 1898) and the restricted and overlapping ranges of several other fossil mollusks collected from Alaska to California.

Neogene marine sediments of the West Coast of North America were deposited in a series of widely spaced basins that extended geographically from the western and northern Gulf of Alaska (60°N) to southern California (33°N). Rich molluscan faunas occur extensively throughout these deposits and form the basis for biostratigraphic schemes that are useful for correlating within and between individual basins.

Arturia angustata nautiloid, Clallam Formation, WA
Early biostratigraphic work was concerned with faunas from particular horizons and with the stratigraphic range of diverse taxa, such as Pecten and Turritella, without reference to other fossil groups.

Succeeding work increasingly dealt with the relationships of molluscan zones to benthic and, later, planktonic foraminiferal stages. In recent years the age limits of Neogene molluscan stages have become better documented by reference to planktonic microfossils from dated DSDP cores and onshore faunas. As our tools get better, our insight into these faunal groups and their correlation with their cousins to the south and over in the Pacific become clearer.

Neogene molluscan faunas from California, the Pacific Northwest states (Oregon and Washington), and southern Alaska have been treated separately due to differences in faunal composition and geographic isolation. As a result, a different biostratigraphic sequence has been described for each region.

Pacific Northwest stages have been formally named and defined. This naming structure is also used informally for Alaskan faunas. California Neogene stages were proposed early in this century, are in need of redescription, and their usage is informal. Precise correlations between the three regional sequences have not yet been achieved, due to the low number of co-occurring species and the general lack of planktonic microfossils in these largely shallow-water faunas. The objectives of ongoing research include the documentation of the faunas of California and Pacific Northwest stages; formal description of California stages; an improved correlation between regional stage sequences; refinement of age estimates for stage boundaries; and, the establishment of Neogene stages for Alaskan faunas.