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Late Paleozoic Earth History


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Title: Late Paleozoic Earth History

Chapter 11
Late Paleozoic Earth History
Tully Monster
  • Tullimonstrum gregarium, also known as the Tully
    Monster is Illinoiss official state fossil
  • Specimen from Pensylvanian rocks, Mazon Creek
    Locality, Illinois
  • Reconstruction of the Tully Monster
  • about 30 cm long

Mazon Creek Fossils
  • Approximately 300 million years ago
  • in the region of present-day Illinois,
  • sluggish rivers flowed southwestward through
  • and built large deltas that extended outward into
    a subtropical shallow sea
  • These rivers deposited high quantities of mud
  • that entombed many of the plants and animals
    living in the area
  • Rapid burial
  • and the formation of ironstone concretions
  • preserved many of the plants and animals of the

Pennsylvanian Delta Organisms
  • During Pennsylvanian time, two major habitats
    existed in northeastern Illinois
  • One was a swampy forested lowland of the
    subaerial delta,
  • and the other was the shallow-marine environment
    of the actively prograding delta
  • Living in the warm, shallow waters
  • of the delta front were numerous
  • cnidarians,
  • mollusks,
  • echinoderms,
  • arthropods,
  • worms,
  • and fish

Swampy Lowlands
  • The swampy lowlands surrounding the delta were
    home to more than 400 plant species,
  • numerous insects,
  • including millipedes and centipedes, as well as
  • and other animals such as
  • scorpions and amphibians
  • In the ponds, lakes, and rivers were many
  • fish, shrimp, and ostracodes
  • Almost all of the plants were
  • seedless vascular plants,
  • typical of the kinds that lived in the
    coal-forming swamps
  • during the Pennsylvanian Period

Late Paleozoic Paleogeography
  • The Late Paleozoic was a time of
  • continental collisions,
  • mountain building,
  • fluctuating seas levels,
  • and varied climates
  • Coals, evaporites, and tillites
  • testify to the variety of climatic conditions
  • experienced by the different continents during
    the Late Paleozoic

The Devonian Period
  • During the Silurian,
  • Laurentia and Baltica collided along a convergent
    plate boundary
  • to form the larger continent of Laurasia
  • This collision,
  • which closed the northern Iapetus Ocean,
  • is marked by the Caledonian orogeny
  • During the Devonian,
  • as the southern Iapetus Ocean narrowed
  • between Laurasia and Gondwana,
  • mountain building continued along the eastern
    margin of Laurasia
  • with the Acadian orogeny

Paleogeography of the World
  • For the Late Devonian Period

Paleogeography of the World
  • For the Early Carboniferous Period

Paleogeography of the World
  • For the Late Carboniferous Period

Paleogeography of the World
  • For the Late Permian Period

The Kaskaskia Sequence
  • Middle Devonian-Middle Mississippian
  • The boundary with the Tippecanoe sequence is a a
    major unconformit.
  • As the Kaskaskia Sea transgressed over the
    craton, the basal beds consisted of clean,
    well-sorted quartz sandstones

Oriskany Sandstone
  • A good example is the Oriskany Sandstone
  • of New York and Pennsylvania
  • and its lateral equivalents

Basal Kaskaskia Sandstones
  • Extent of the basal units of the Kaskaskia
    sequence in the eastern and north-central
    United States

Source Areas
  • The source areas for the basal Kaskaskia
  • were primarily the eroding highlands of the
    Appalachian mobile belt area,
  • exhumed Cambrian and Ordovician sandstones
    cropping out along the flanks of the Ozark Dome,
  • and exposures of the Canadian Shield in the
    Wisconsin area

Devonian Period
  • Paleogeography of North America during the
    Devonian Period

Kaskaskian Rocks
  • The majority of Kaskaskian rocks are
  • carbonates, including reefs, and associated
    evaporite deposits

Major Reefs in Other Parts of the World
  • In many other parts of the world, such as
  • southern England,
  • Belgium,
  • Central Europe,
  • Australia,
  • and Russia,
  • the Middle and early Late Devonian epochs were
    times of major reef building

Reef Development in Western Canada
  • The Middle and Late Devonian-age reefs of western
  • contain large reserves of petroleum
  • and have been widely studied from outcrops and in
    the subsurface
  • These reefs began forming
  • as the Kaskaskia Sea transgressed southward
  • into Western Canada

Devonian Reef Complex
  • Reconstruction of the extensive Devonian Reef
    complex of western Canada
  • These reefs controlled the regional facies of the
    Devonian epeiric seas

Potash from Evaporites
  • More than half of the world's potash,
  • which is used in fertilizers,
  • comes from these Devonian evaporites
  • By the middle of the Late Devonian,
  • reef growth stopped in the western Canada region,
  • although non-reef carbonate deposition continued

Increased Detrital Deposition
  • Deposition of black shales
  • was brought on by the the Acadian orogeny

Widespread Black Shales
  • These Upper Devonian-Lower Mississippian black
    shales are typically
  • noncalcareous,
  • thinly bedded,
  • and usually less than 10 m thick

Extent of Black Shales
  • The extent of the upper Devonian and Lower
    Mississippian Chattanooga Shale and its
    equivalent units
  • such as the Antrion Shale and the Albany Shale

New Albany Shale
  • Upper Devonian New Albany Shale,
  • Button Mold Knob Quarry, Kentucky

The Late Kaskaskia
  • Following deposition of the black shales,
  • carbonate sedimentation on the craton dominated
    the remainder of the Mississippian Period

Mississippian Period
  • Paleogeography of North America during the
    Mississippian Period

Mississippian Carbonates
  • These Mississippian carbonates display
  • cross-bedding, ripple marks, and well-sorted
    fossil fragments,
  • all of which are indicative of a shallow-water
  • Analogous features can be observed on the
    present-day Bahama Banks
  • In addition, numerous small organic reefs
  • occurred throughout the craton during the
  • These were all much smaller than the large
    barrier-reef complexes
  • that dominated the earlier Paleozoic seas

Regression of the Kaskaskia Sea
  • During the Late Mississippian regression
  • of the Kaskaskia Sea from the craton,
  • carbonate deposition was replaced
  • by vast quantities of detrital sediments

Cratonwide Unconformity
  • Prior to the end of the Mississippian,
  • the Kaskaskia Sea had retreated
  • to the craton margin,
  • once again exposing the craton
  • to widespread weathering and erosion
  • This resulted in a cratonwide unconformity
  • when the Absaroka Sea began Transgressing
  • back over the craton

The Absaroka Sequence
  • The Absaroka sequence
  • includes rocks deposited
  • during the latest Mississippian
  • through Early Jurassic
  • The extensive unconformity
  • separating the Kaskaskia and Absaroka sequences
  • essentially divides the strata
  • into the North American
  • Mississippian and Pennsylvanian systems

Pennsylvanian Period
  • Paleogeography of North America during the
    Pennsylvanian Period

What Are Cyclothems?
  • A cyclical pattern of alternating marine and
    nonmarine strata
  • is one of the characteristic features of
    Pennsylvanian rocks
  • Such rhythmically repetitive sedimentary
    sequences are known as cyclothems
  • They result from repeated alternations
  • of marine
  • and nonmarine environments,
  • usually in areas of low relief

  • Columnar section of a complete cyclothem

Pennsylvanian Coal Bed
  • Pennsylvanian coal bed, West Virginia
  • part of a cyclothem

Coal-Forming Swamp
  • Reconstruction of the environment of a
    Pennsylvanian coal-forming swamp

The Okefenokee Swamp
  • in Georgia, is a modern coal-forming environment,

similar to those occurring during the
Pennsylvanian Period
Ancestral Rockies
  • During the Late Absaroka (Pennsylvania),
  • the area of greatest deformation occurred in the
    southwestern part of the North American craton
  • where a series of fault-bounded uplifted blocks
    formed the Ancestral Rockies
  • Uplift of these mountains,
  • some of which were elevated more than 2 km along
    near-vertical faults,
  • resulted in the erosion of the overlying
    Paleozoic sediments
  • and exposure of the Precambrian igneous and
    metamorphic basement rocks

Pennsylvanian Highlands
  • Location of the principal Pennsylvanian highland
    areas and basins of the southwestern part of the

Ancestral Rockies
  • Block diagram of the Ancestral Rockies, which
    were elevated by faulting during the
    Pennsylvanian Period
  • Erosion of these mountains produced
  • coarse red sediments
  • that were deposited in the adjacent basins

Red bed Sediment
  • As the Ancestral Rocky mountains eroded,
  • tremendous quantities of
  • coarse, red arkosic sand and conglomerate
  • were deposited in the surrounding basins
  • These sediments are preserved in many areas
  • including the rocks of the Garden of the Gods
    near Colorado Springs
  • and at the Red Rocks Amphitheater near Morrison,

Garden of the Gods
  • Storm-sky view of Garden of the Gods from Near
    Hidden Inn, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Intracratonic Mountain Ranges
  • It is thought that the collision of Gondwana with
    Laurasia produced great stresses in the
    southwestern region of the North American craton
  • These crustal stresses were relieved by faulting
  • that resulted in uplift of cratonic blocks
  • and downwarp of adjacent basins,

The Late Absaroka
  • While the various intracratonic basins
  • were filling with sediment
  • during the Late Pennsylvanian,
  • the Absaroka Sea slowly began retreating from the
  • During the Early Permian,
  • the Absaroka Sea occupied a narrow region
  • from Nebraska through west Texas

Permian Period
  • Paleogeography of North America during the
    Permian Period

Middle Permian Absaroka Sea
  • By the Middle Permian,
  • the sea had retreated to west Texas
  • and southern New Mexico
  • The thick evaporite deposits
  • in Kansas and Oklahoma
  • provide evidence of the restricted nature of the
    Absaroka Sea
  • during the Early and Middle Permian

Restricted Absaroka Sea
  • Three basins separated by two submerged platforms
    formed during the Permian

Permian Reefs and Basins
  • Location of the west Texas Permian basins and
    surrounding reefs

Massive Reefs
  • Massive reefs grew around the basin margins
  • while limestones, evaporites, and red beds were
  • in the lagoonal areas behind the reefs
  • As the barrier reefs grew and the passageways
    between the basins became more restricted,
  • Late Permian evaporites gradually filled the
    individual basins

Capitan Limestone Reef Reconstruction
  • Reconstruction of the Middle Permian Capitan
    Limestone reef environment
  • Shown are brachiopods, corals, bryozoans and
    large glass sponges

Capitan Limestone
  • Spectacular deposits representing the geologic
    history of this region
  • can be seen today in the Guadalupe Mountains of
    Texas and New Mexico
  • where the Capitan Limestone forms the caprock of
    these mountains
  • By the end of the Permian Period,
  • the Absaroka Sea had retreated from the craton
  • exposing continental red beds
  • over most of the southwestern and eastern region

Antler orogeny at the Cordilleran Mobile belt
  • A collision between
  • this eastward-moving island arc
  • and the western border of the Laurasia
  • during the Late Devonian and early Mississippian,
  • produced in a highland area
  • This orogenic event,
  • the Antler orogeny,
  • caused by subduction and closure of a narrow
    ocean basin

Antler Highlands
  • Reconstruction of the Cordilleran mobile belt
    during the Early Mississippian
  • in which deep-water continental slope deposits
  • were thrust eastward
  • over shallow-water continental shelf carbonates
  • forming the Antler Highlands

Ouachita Mobile Belt
  • The Ouachita mobile belt
  • extends for approximately 2100 km
  • from the subsurface of Mississippi
  • to the Marathon region of Texas
  • Approximately 80 of the former mobile belt
  • is buried beneath a Mesozoic and Cenozoic
    sedimentary cover
  • The two major exposed areas in this region are
  • the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma and Arkansas
  • and the Marathon Mountains of Texas

Beginning of the Ouachita Orogeny
  • During the Late Proterozoic to Early
  • shallow-water detrital and carbonate sediments
  • deposited on a broad continental shelf,
  • while bedded cherts and shales accumulated in
  • Beginning in the Mississippian Period,
  • the region changed from a passive continental
    margin to an active convergent plate boundary,
  • marking the beginning of the Ouachita orogeny

Ouachita Mobile Belt
  • Plate Tectonic model for the deformation of the
    Ouachita mobile belt
  • Depositional environment prior to the beginning
    of orogenic activity

Ouachita Mobile Belt
  • Incipient continental collision between
    North America and Gondwana began during
    the Mississippian to Pennsylvanian

Ouachita Mobile Belt
  • Continental collision continued during the
    Pennsylvanian Period

Gondwana/Laurasia Collision
  • The collision of Gondwana and Laurasia
  • is marked by the formation of a large mountain
  • most of which was eroded during the Mesozoic Era
  • Only the rejuvenated Ouachita and Marathon
    Mountains exposed

Three Continuous Mobile Belts
  • The Ouachita deformation
  • was part of the general worldwide tectonic
  • that occurred when Gondwana united with Laurasia
  • Three mobile belts
  • the Hercynian,
  • Appalachian,
  • and Ouachita
  • were continuous, and marked the southern boundary
    of Laurasia

Caledonian Orogeny
  • The culmination of the Caledonian orogeny
  • occurred during the Late Silurian and Early
  • with the formation of a mountain range
  • along the western margin of Baltica

Acadian Orogeny
  • The third Paleozoic orogeny to affect Laurentia
    and Baltica
  • began during the Late Silurian
  • and concluded at the end of the Devonian Period
  • The Acadian orogeny affected the Appalachian
    mobile belt

Catskill Delta Red Beds
  • The red beds of the Catskill Delta
  • derive their color from the hematite found in the
  • Plant fossils and oxidation of the hematite
  • that the beds were deposited in a continental

The Old Red Sandstone
  • The red beds of the Catskill Delta
  • have a European counterpart
  • in the Devonian Old Red Sandstone
  • of the British Isles

Old Red Sandstone
  • Old Red Sandstone on one side
  • and the Catskill Delta on the other

Closing of the Iapetus Ocean
  • The Taconic, Caledonian, and Acadian orogenies
  • were all part of the same orogenic event
  • related to the closing of the Iapetus Ocean

Hercynian-Alleghenian Orogeny
  • Following this,
  • the Hercynian-Alleghenian orogeny began,
  • followed by orogenic activity
  • in the Ouachita mobile belt
  • The Hercynian mobile belt
  • of southern Europe
  • and the Appalachian and Ouachita mobile belts
  • of North America
  • mark the zone along which Europe
  • as part of Laurasia
  • collided with Gondwana

  • These three Late Paleozoic orogenies
  • Hercynian,
  • Alleghenian,
  • and Ouachita
  • represent the final joining of Laurasia and
  • into the supercontinent Pangaea
  • during the Permian
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