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Facies and fauna of the Pennsylvanian Buckhorn Asphalt Quarry deposit: a review and new data on an important Palaeozoic fossil Lagerstätte with aragonite preservation


The Pennsylvanian Buckhorn Asphalt Quarry contains the best-preserved Palaeozoic mollusc fauna in the world. Early impregnation of mixed siliciclastic–carbonate rocks (mudstones, pack to grainstones, shell beds, and conglomerates) with hydrocarbons prevented aragonite destruction (“Impregnation Fossil Lagerstätte”). The exceptional preservation comprises shell microstructures, microornaments and early ontogenetic shells. Most gastropods had planktotrophic larval development indicating a high primary production although the remains of phytoplankton are very rare in this and other Late Palaeozoic deposits. Deposition occurred close to a shallow-water coastal area. Mass flow processes (density currents) triggered by storms were involved in the transport mechanisms of some units. Shells of benthic molluscs yield the most diverse known Palaeozoic microboring assemblage, indicating at least partly euphotic conditions. The invertebrate fauna comprises about 160 species and is dominated by molluscs, which is unusual for a Palaeozoic deposit, suggesting that aragonite dissolution produces a major bias in the fossil record. However, most mollusc genera in the Buckhorn deposit are also known from other Pennsylvanian occurrences as recrystallised shells. This shows that preservation bias via preferential aragonite dissolution may be overestimated.

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We wish to thank Douglas Erwin for securing the funding from the Smithsonian Institution to reopen the Buckhorn Quarry. Additionally, we are grateful that Mrs. Mary Lou Heltzel in Sulphur (Oklahoma) allowed us access to the quarry. Our thanks are extended to Richard L. Squires (Northridge, California) for allowing us to reproduce maps and illustrations from his unpublished dissertation. We thank Andrej Ernst (Christian-Albrechts-Universität, Kiel) for the identification of some of the bryozoans. Our thanks also go to Michael Brettreich and Torsten Schunk at the Institute for Organic Chemistry (University Erlangen-Nuremberg) for advice and facility to work in laboratories of the institute, as well as to Mrs. Birgit Leipner-Mata for advice and preparing thin sections. We thank Elias Samankassou (Fribourg) and Steffen Kiel (Kiel) for their careful reviews. Finally, our thanks go to Jürgen Titschak (GZN—Paläoumwelt, University Erlangen-Nuremberg) for fruitful discussions on the thin sections and to Christian Schubert for technical advice and support (GZN—Paläoumwelt, University Erlangen-Nuremberg). The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft is acknowledged for financial support Project NU 96/10-1.

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Correspondence to Barbara Seuß.

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ESM 1. Short characterisation of the sample spots (DOC 86 kb)

ESM 2a. Overview of the thin sections according to their lithology. Abbreviations: detrit. asphalt: detrital asphalt (additional: organic remains, black pebbles), biv: bivalves; brach: brachiopods; bryo: bryozoans; echino: echinoderms ; foram: foraminifers ; gastro: gastropods; nauti: nautiloids; ostra: ostracods; plantrem: plant remains; redal: red algae shellfrag: shell fragments; asphalt amount: (++) high amount; (+) moderately amount; (-) few asphalt; (--) very few asphalt; (0) no asphalt (TIFF 1559 kb)

ESM 2b. Overview of the thin sections according to their lithology (TIFF 1624 kb)

ESM 2c. Overview of the thin sections according to their lithology (TIFF 1645 kb)

ESM 2d. Overview of the thin sections according to their lithology (TIFF 989 kb)

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Seuß, B., Nützel, A., Mapes, R.H. et al. Facies and fauna of the Pennsylvanian Buckhorn Asphalt Quarry deposit: a review and new data on an important Palaeozoic fossil Lagerstätte with aragonite preservation. Facies 55, 609 (2009).

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  • Buckhorn Asphalt
  • Facies
  • Pennsylvanian
  • “Impregnation Fossil Lagerstätte
  • Oil migration
  • Aragonite preservation