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Oligocene terrestrial strata of northwestern Ethiopia : a preliminary report on paleoenvironments and paleontology


Bonnie F. Jacobs
Neil Tabor
Mulugeta Feseha
Aaron Pan
John Kappelman
Tab Rasmussen
William Sanders
Jeff Crabaugh
Juan Leandro Garcia Massini



Publication type:

Miscellaneous Publication

Primary Station(s):

Forest Products Laboratory


Palaeontologia electronica [electronic resource]. Vol. 8, no. 1 (2005): 19 p.


The Paleogene record of Afro-Arabia is represented by few fossil localities, most of which are coastal. Here we report sedimentological and paleontological data from continental Oligocene strata in northwestern Ethiopia. These have produced abundant plant fossils and unique assemblages of vertebrates, thus filling a gap in what is known of Paleogene interior Afro-Arabia. The study area is approximately 60 km west of Gondar, Chilga Woreda; covers about 100 km2; and represents as few as 1 Myr based on radiometric dates and paleomagnetic chronostratigraphy. The sedimentary strata are 150 m thick, and dominated by kaolinitic and smectitic mudstones and airfall tuff deposits. Five main paleosol types are interpreted as representing Protosols (gleyed or ferric), Histosols, Gleysols, Vertisols, and Argillisols. Varied, poor drainage conditions produced lateral variation in paleosols, and stratigraphic variation probably resulted from lateral changes in drainage conditions through time. Vertebrate fossils occur in sediments associated with ferric Protosols and occur with fruits, seeds, and leaf impressions. Plant fossils also occur as in situ forests on interfluves, leaf and flower compressions associated with in situ carbonized trees in overbank deposits (Gleyed Protosols), and compressions of leaves, twigs and seeds in tuffs. Plant fossil assemblages document diverse forests, from 20-35 m tall, of locally heterogeneous composition, and representing families occurring commonly (legumes) or uncommonly (palms) in forests today. Sedimentological and paleobotanical data are consistent with a nearly flat landscape where a meandering river and ample rainfall supported lush vegetation. Over time, the region was subject to intermittent ashfalls. A unique fauna of archaic mammalian endemics, such as arsinoitheres and primitive hyracoids, lived here with the earliest deinotheres.


Jacobs, Bonnie F.; Tabor, Neil; Feseha, Mulugeta; Pan, Aaron; Kappelman, John; Rasmussen, Tab; Sanders, William; Wiemann, Michael; Crabaugh, Jeff; Garcia Massini, Juan Leandro. 2005. Oligocene terrestrial strata of northwestern Ethiopia : a preliminary report on paleoenvironments and paleontology. Palaeontologia electronica [electronic resource]. Vol. 8, no. 1 (2005): 19 p.

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