Comparative dating of a Bison-bearing late-Pleistocene deposit, Térapa, Sonora, Mexico

Jordon Bright, Darrell S. Kaufman, Steven L. Forman, William C. McIntosh, Jim I. Mead, Arturo Baez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


A recently discovered Bison-bearing fossil locality at Térapa, Sonora, Mexico, had previously been dated to 440 ± 130 ka using whole rock 40Ar/39Ar on a basalt flow that impounds the deposit. This age is considerably older than the accepted age of about 240-160 ka for the migration of Bison into greater North America. The Térapa deposit also contains a mixture of fossils from extralimital or extinct tropical animals and temperate animals. Constraining the age of the deposit is critical to interpret the paleontologic and paleoclimatologic implications of this unique Sonoran fossil locality. Three additional geochronological methods have been applied to this deposit (infrared stimulated luminescence (IRSL), amino acid racemization (AAR), and radiocarbon) and the data from the original 40Ar/39Ar age were revisited. The IRSL data suggest that the impounding basalt flow and the sediments that abut it were emplaced 43 ka ago and that the oldest sediments were deposited shortly after. Two radiocarbon ages suggest the fossiliferous sediments were emplaced by 42 ka. Effective diagenetic temperatures inferred from the AAR results, combined with AAR data from a similar-age deposit in southern Arizona, are in accordance with the 40-43 ka age estimates. For the AAR results to corroborate the 40Ar/39Ar age, the effective diagenetic temperature for the area would need to be approximately 3 °C, which is unrealistically low for northern Mexico. The new geochronological results suggest the Térapa deposit and fossils are 40-43 ka old. The anomalously old 40Ar/39Ar age for the impounding basalt is probably the result of low 40Ar* concentrations and inherited 40Ar.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-643
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary Geochronology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Amino acid geochronology
  • Bison, Ar/Ar
  • Luminescence dating
  • Radiocarbon
  • Sonora

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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