In cyclical Pennsylvanian strata, conodonts find their greatest stratigraphic utility as biotic signatures of physically defined stratigraphic entities (cycles, parasequences, high frequency sequences, etc.) rather then the primary means of stratigraphic subdivision (e.g., biostratigraphic interval zones). The practice of identifying depositional entities for purposes of regional correlation on the basis of their constituent conodont faunas is herein called conodont sequence biostratigraphy. In this paper, the concept is utilized to successfully correlate Pennsylvanian cycles of the Paradox basin with their Midcontinent counterparts.
The Honaker Trail section is the most accessible and well-studied succession of carbonate shelf strata in the Paradox basin. Approximately 350 m of cyclically bedded limestone, sandstone, and shale comprising 53 fifth-order cycles are exposed along the cliffs of the deeply entrenched San Juan River. Maximum transgressive facies of 19 cycles yielded Idiognathodus-Neognathodus- and/or Streptognathodus-dominated conodont faunas. Those from the Chimney Rock, Gothic, LHT-5, UHT-3, UHT-5, UHT-8, unnamed limestone, and Shafer correspond to faunas from the Verdigris, Lower Fort Scott, Altamont (Lake Neosho), Lost Branch, Hertha (Mound City), Swope (Hushpuckney), Dennis (Stark), and South Bend cycles of the Midcontinent, respectively. By extrapolation, all minor cycles of the Marmaton, Pleasanton, and Bronson Groups (except for the Critzer) also appear to have counterparts at Honaker Trail.
The position of the Desmoinesian–Missourian boundary in the Honaker Trail section can be approximated using conodonts in conjunction with fusulinids. The highest Desmoinesian conodont fauna, the Idiognathodus nodocarinatus fauna, occurs in cycle UHT-3 in the lower part of the Upper Honaker Trail sequence. The highest occurrence of Beedeina occurs in the same cycle. The lowest conodont fauna with the Missourian species I. eccentricus appears two cycles higher, in cycle UHT-5. Because in the Midcontinent region a small interval of strata separates the first appearance of I. eccentricus from the base of the Missourian, we place the base of the Missourian at the base of cycle UHT-4 (bed 105) at Honaker Trail. The appearance of Streptognathodus firmus and S. pawhuskaensis in the Shafer limestone indicates that the Missourian–Virgilian boundary lies slightly above or below this stratigraphic horizon.