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Canyon Creek: A Late Pleistocene Vertebrate Locality in Interior Alaska

  • Florence R. Weber (a1), Thomas D. Hamilton (a2), David M. Hopkins (a2), Charles A. Repenning (a2) and Herbert Haas (a3)...

Abstract

The Canyon Creek vertebrate-fossil locality is an extensive road cut near Fairbanks that exposes sediments that range in age from early Wisconsin to late Holocene. Tanana River gravel at the base of the section evidently formed during the Delta Glaciation of the north-central Alaska Range. Younger layers and lenses of fluvial sand are interbedded with arkosic gravel from Canyon Creek that contains tephra as well as fossil bones of an interstadial fauna about 40,000 years old. Solifluction deposits containing ventifacts, wedge casts, and rodent burrows formed during a subsequent period of periglacial activity that took place during the maximum phase of Donnelly Glaciation about 25,000–17,000 years ago. Overlying sheets of eolian sand are separated by a 9500-year-old paleosol that may correlate with a phase of early Holocene spruce expansion through central Alaska. The Pleistocene fauna from Canyon Creek consists of rodents (indicated by burrows), Mammuthus primigenius (woolly mammoth), Equus lambei (Yukon wild ass), Camelops hesternus (western camel), Bison sp. cf. B. crassicornis (large-horned bison), Ovis sp. cf.O. dalli (mountain sheep), Canis sp. cf. C. lupus (wolf), Lepus sp. cf. L. othus or L. arcticus (tundra hare), and Rangifer sp. (caribou). This assemblage suggests an open landscape in which trees and tall shrubs were either absent or confined to sheltered and moist sites. Camelops evidently was present in eastern Beringia during the middle Wisconsin interstadial interval but may have disappeared during the following glacial episode. The stratigraphic section at Canyon Creek appears to demonstrate that the Delta Glaciation of the north-central Alaska Range is at least in part of early Wisconsin age and was separated from the succeeding Donnelly Glaciation by an interstadial rather than interglacial episode.

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References

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