Litho-, bio-, and sequence stratigraphy of the Boyle-Portwood Succession (Middle Devonian, Central Kentucky, USA)


The Middle Devonian (Givetian) of central Kentucky is represented by a complex and somewhat enigmatic succession of sandy dolomitic limestones and chert-rich wackestones, silty dolostones, and thin dark shales belonging to the Boyle Formation and Portwood Member of the New Albany Formation. The lower contact of the Boyle Formation is a distinct, regionally angular unconformity on rocks of Late Ordovician to mid-Silurian age. New exposures of Middle Devonian strata in the vicinity of Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky, reveal a series of distinctive depositional sequences, each with a sharply erosive base, overlain by phosphatic grains, fish teeth, and bone-rich quartz sandstone. The lower sequences, forming the Kiddville Member, are siliciclastic-rich, Zoophycos-bioturbated, silty, dolomitic carbonates that contain typical Hamilton brachiopod associations. The Kiddville is missing in some successions apparently owing to erosional overstep by upper Boyle units (Beechwood Member). The upper Boyle, Beechwood Member, is massive and cherty carbonate, which is highly variable in thickness, owing to major erosional truncation/karstification that locally removes the Boyle completely. Conodont studies indicate that much of the upper Boyle is of Po. ansatus Zone and thus middle Givetian in age. It is probably equivalent to the Moscow Formation of New York State. The overlying Portwood Member of the New Albany Shale belongs to the later Po. ansatus and “Oz.” semialternans zones and consists of dark-brownish-grey shales and muddy dolosiltites. In many localities to the west, the basal unit is a lenticular dolomitic breccia, the Duffin Bed, which may represent a lowstand karst breccia that mantles the irregular upper contact of the Boyle Formation at a regional unconformity. A lower dark shale contains rare small brachiopods Emmanuella and Leiorhynchus, suggestive of the lower Tully fauna of the Appalachian Basin; locally, this shale appears to fill paleokarst in the Boyle carbonates. It is overlain by a dolosiltite that has a highly distinctive “megaburrow” trace fossil assemblage on the base and yields rare Tullypothyridina and the conodonts Po. ansatus and “Po.alveoliposticus, diagnostic of the Lower Tully Limestone in the Appalachian Basin. It is overlain by dark grey to black, typically deformed (seismites) calcareous mudstone of the middle Portwood Member. An upper pale grey, lenticular massive dolomitic bed rests sharply on the middle Portwood in channel-like scours with relief of about 0.5 m and a width of up to tens of meters. This bed yields poorly preserved corals, atrypid brachiopods (Spinatrypa sp.), and phacopid trilobites as is typical of the Upper Tully member. Overlying thinner bedded rhythmically bedded calcareous mudstones and dark shales of the uppermost Portwood yield conodonts of the “Oz.semialternans Zone; this lithology resembles the Fillmore Glen interval of the Upper Tully Limestone. The sharply overlying black shale of the Trousdale Member yields hermanni Zone elements, indicating correlation with the basal upper Givetian lower Geneseo black shales of the Appalachian Basin. The highly variable thicknesses, complex internal discordances, and abundant seismites of the Portwood and Boyle Formations suggest a dynamic interval with regional far-field tectonics associated with the onset of the third tectophase of the Acadian Orogeny. Despite these tectonic effects, the presence of a consistent internal sequence stratigraphy that correlates with that of the Appalachian Basin and elsewhere reflects strong eustatic effects.

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We thank Peter Königshof for inviting a paper on Boyle-Portwood succession, thereby providing us incentive to carefully consider these issues. D. Jeffrey Over and an anonymous referee reviewed the manuscript, providing suggestions that improved the final version. Colin Sumrall, Dan Cooper, and Brenda Hunda measured sections with us as part of an earlier study of this succession. We are grateful to Jeff Over for examining residues and identifying conodonts and providing advice on biostratigraphy as part of an earlier study of this succession and to Katarzyna Narkiewicz for her critical insights on conodont identifications prior to submission of this manuscript. Tim Phillips assisted with illustrations. In Münster Eva Kuropka processed and picked conodont samples, Traudel Fährenkemper assisted in the conodont figure preparation. This publication is a contribution to the IGCP 596 on “Climate change and biodiversity patterns in the Mid-Palaeozoic.”

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Appendix: Locality registry

Appendix: Locality registry

1) Cuts along I-75 at bridge of Paint Lick Road (Kentucky Route 21) and at exit 76 ramp at Berea, Madison County, Kentucky (now covered) (N37.569 W84.315); Devonian Boyle Formation–Portwood Member contact.

2) Section at the junction of Kentucky Route 977 and Cane Springs Road, ~ 8 km (5 miles) north of College Hill, Madison County, Kentucky (N37.826 W84.130); Devonian Portwood Member and Duffin Breccia.

3) Cuts along both sides of Kentucky Route 52, 0.3 km (0.2 miles) east of junction Kentucky Route 977 at Waco, Madison County, Kentucky (N37.741 W84.143); Devonian Boyle Formation and Portwood Member with deformed bedding.

4) Type Portwood Formation: small creek and driveway cuts just south of Waco Loop Road, Bybee, Madison Co. Kentucky (type Portwood Member, former McLaughlin farm; see Campbell 1946, pg. 866 for details) (N37.738 W84.130); Silurian Waco Member and Devonian Portwood Member (Boyle Formation is absent).

5) Drowning Creek West: northwestern end of newly enlarged cut on north side of Kentucky Route 52 (New Irvine Road), 1.93 km (1.2 miles) west of Drowning Creek, Waco, Madison County, Kentucky (N37.726 W84.116); Silurian Lulbegrud and Waco Members, Devonian Boyle Formation with basal grainstone facies, and Portwood Member.

6) Drowning Creek East: cuts on both sides of Kentucky Route 52, southeast of junction of Kentucky Route 1353, 1.44 km (0.9 miles) east of Drowning Creek, near Winston Road Estill County, Kentucky (north side is N 37.712 W84.085); Silurian Lulbegrud and Waco Members, Devonian Boyle Formation with basal grainstone facies, and Portwood Member.

7) Weathered cut on north side of Kentucky Route 52, just east of junction of Reynolds Road; 2.09 km (1.3 miles) east of Drowning Creek, Estill County, Kentucky (also called “Winston Junkyard”; Sullivan et al. 2016) (N37.709 W84.078); Silurian Waco Member and Devonian Boyle Formation.

8) Cut on south side of Kentucky Route 52, 2.4 km (1.5 miles) east of Drowning Creek and 0.3 km (0.2 miles) southeast of locality 7, Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky (N37.707 W84.072); Devonian Boyle Formation.

9) Cut on abandoned railroad cut near the former Rice Station, 0.48 km (0.3 miles) southwest of Quail Run Estates Road, Estill County, Kentucky (N37.687 W84.054); Devonian Boyle Formation and Portwood Member.

10) Emmanuel Baptist Church: Cut on north side of Kentucky Route 52 opposite Emmanuel Baptist Church starting west of Scott Hill Road junction, 6.27 km (3.9 miles) west of Kentucky River bridge in Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky (N37.703 W84.033 to N37.703 W84.035); Silurian Estill Shale, Boyle Formation, Portwood Member, Trousdale Member, and New Albany Shale.

11) Railroad cut along northeast bank of Kentucky River immediately west of bridge/overpass of Kentucky Routes 52/89 in Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky; (N37.699 W83.976) Boyle Formation? with karstic surface, Portwood Member.

12) New cut on Kentucky Route 499 (Joseph Proctor Memorial Bypass), 0.8 km (0.5 miles) west of junction with Kentucky Route 89, Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky (N37.717 W83.894); Silurian Estill Shale and Boyle Formation.

13) Irvine North: cut along east side of Kentucky Route 89, ~ 0.24 km (~ 0.15 miles) north of junction of Engineer Drive, north of Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky (N37.726 W83.983); Devonian Boyle Formation.

14) Cuts behind (north of) Estill County Middle School and on adjacent Kentucky Route 89, 0.32 km (0.2 miles) to the north of the school driveway, north Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky (N37.738 W83.990); Devonian Portwood and Trousdale Members.

15A) Old cut on west side of Kentucky Route 89 (Winchester Road), 0.32 km (0.2 miles) north of junction of Dry Ridge Road near Calloway Creek ~ 6.4 km (~ 4 miles) north of Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky (N37.755 W84.000); Devonian Boyle Formation and Portwood Member.

15B) Dry Ridge: cut (new in 2013) on west side of Kentucky Route 89, 0.48 km (0.3 miles) north of junction of Dry Ridge Road north Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky (N37.758 W84.001); Silurian Estill Formation, Devonian Boyle Formation, and Portwood Member.

16) Type Harg facies: Cut along railroad track 0.16 km (0.1 miles) north of overpass of Kentucky Route 89 (Winchester Road) just northwest of junction of Kentucky Routes 89 and Hargett-Parvin Road, Estill County, Kentucky (N37.784 W84.014); Devonian Portwood Memer (Harg facies).

17) Mina South: cut in old quarry section along west side of Kentucky Route 89, ~ 1 km (~ 0.6 miles) north of bridge over Red River and south of Mina, Clark County, Kentucky (N37.831 W84.069); Silurian Estill Shale and Devonian Boyle Formation.

18) J.K. Smith Power Station: Cuts along access road to (N37.882 W84.081) and ramp road in (N37.882 W84.090) property of J.K. Smith Power Plant, Trapp, Clark County, Kentucky; Composite section: Silurian Estill Shale, Devonian Boyle Formation, and Portwood Member (see also Work et al. 2007).

19) Cut on both sides of Kentucky Route 15, 0.96 km (0.6 miles) north of junction with Kentucky Route 82 (at entrance to Bert Combs Mountain Parkway), Clay City, Powell County, Kentucky (N37.874 W83.951); Silurian Waco Member, Devonian Boyle Formation, Portwood Member.

20) Cuts along east side of Bert Combs Mountain Parkway, northwest of entrance ramp off Kentucky Route 82, Clay City, Powell County, Kentucky; (N37.869 W83.947 and N37.872 W83.948) Devonian Boyle Formation and Portwood and Trousdale Members.

21) Cut along northeast side of Mountain Parkway just southeast of bridge over Lulbegrud Creek (county line), Powell County, Kentucky (N37.922 W83.980); Devonian Duffin Breccia and lower Portwood Member.

22) Kiddville Member Type section: outcrops on banks and waterfalls of Combs Branch of Lulbegrud Creek, ~ 500 m east of crossing by Kiddville-Indian Fields Road, Indian Fields, S of Winchester, Powell County, Kentucky (88.9899W); Boyle Formation including type section of lower or Kiddville Member.

23) Creek bank exposure along south bank of Rocky Branch south of Rte 21 near junction of Carterville Road, 6.4 km (4 miles) west of Berea, Madison County, Kentucky (37.552N 84.350W); Boyle Formation with apparent karst fill of Duffin Breccia.

24) Kidds Store (Hustonville South): Roadcuts on both sides of US Route 127, just north of intersection of Green Valley Road, Kidds Store School, Hustonville, Casey County, Kentucky (N37.422, W84.852); Upper Ordovician Ashlock Formation unconformably overlain by Middle Devonian Boyle Formation and Duffin Breccia. See Fig. 1 for location of this section relative to other sections discussed in this study.

25) Carpenter Fork: Exposures along north bank of Carpenter Fork tributary of North Rolling Fork Creek starting about 50 m east of bridge of Carpenter Creek Road. Carpenter Fork, Parksville about 5 km (3 miles) east of Forkland, Boyle County, Kentucky (N37.540 W84.899); Boyle Formation unconformably on Upper Ordovicisn Ashlock Formation; Boyle shows large cavity fill of Middle Devonian black shale overlying stringers of Duffin Breccia.

26) Small roadcut on northwest side of Scrubgrass Road (Kentucky Route 1856) about 5.3 km (3.3 miles)southwest of the junction with Kentucky 34 in Mitchellsburg, Boyle County, Kentucky (37.5727N 84.9935W); Devonian Boyle Limestone (Beechwood Mbr, Casey submember) in angular unconformity on Upper Ordovician Rowland Member, Drakes Formation.

27) Sellersburg Stone Quarry (Irving Materials Inc.). Exposures along west wall of quarry; at top of ramp road leading from middle to upper lift of quarry. 1014 E Utica St, Sellerburg, Jefferson County, Indiana (38.3919 N 85.73588 W); lag beds at contact of Beechwood Limestone and New Albany Shale.

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Brett, C.E., Zambito, J.J., Baird, G.C. et al. Litho-, bio-, and sequence stratigraphy of the Boyle-Portwood Succession (Middle Devonian, Central Kentucky, USA). Palaeobio Palaeoenv 98, 331–368 (2018).

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