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Revised geology, age, and vertebrate diversity of the dinosaur-bearing Griman Creek Formation (Cenomanian), Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, Australia
- Bell, Phil R., Fanti, Federico, Hart, Lachlan J., Milan, Luke A., Craven, Stephen J., Brougham, Thomas, Smith, Elizabeth
- Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2019 v.514 pp. 655-671
- Cretaceous period, basins, birds, fauna, fossils, freshwater, opal, paleoecology, streams, surveys, turtles, New South Wales, Queensland
- The mid-Cretaceous Griman Creek Formation (GCF), which crops out near the town of Lightning Ridge in the Surat Basin of north-central New South Wales, Australia, is noteworthy for its opalised vertebrate fauna. The fossil assemblage comprises remains of aspidorhynchid teleosts, lamniform chondrichthyans, dipnoans, chelid and possible meiolaniform turtles, leptocleidid-like and possible elasmosaurid plesiosaurians, anhanguerian pterosaurs, titanosauriform sauropods, megaraptoran theropods, ankylosaurians, several forms of non-iguanodontian and iguanodontian ornithopods, crocodylomorphs, enantiornithine birds, and stem and true monotremes, making it one of the most diverse mid-Cretaceous terrestrial vertebrate faunas in Australia. A detailed stratigraphic survey of twenty subterranean opal mines provides new information on the geology, age and palaeoenvironment of the main fossil-bearing beds. Vertebrate remains derive from the ‘Finch Clay facies’, laterally-extensive but discontinuous lenses of claystone that likely accumulated relatively rapidly in near-coastal but freshwater embayments (i.e. lagoonal conditions), and probably represent a single, roughly contemporaneous fauna. U-Pb age dating of detrital zircons extracted from a distinct layer of volcanogenic claystone immediately overlying one of the opalised fossil-bearing layers yields a maximum depositional age of 100.2–96.6 Ma. These new dates confirm an early to mid-Cenomanian age for the fauna, rather than Albian, as has been reported previously. The GCF at Lightning Ridge is therefore equivalent to the middle part of the Winton Formation (Queensland) and several million years older than the sauropod-dominated fauna at Winton.