Journal of Geology
One of the most famous fossiliferous Pleistocene sites in the Pacific Northwest is Fossil Lake, Oregon. Until recently, fossil collections from the area were not stratigraphically controlled, owing to the lack of a detailed stratigraphic and chronologic framework. Our field studies reveal at least nine exposed thin rhythmic fining-upward depositional packages, most separated by disconformities. Analysis of interbedded tephras reveals that the Rye Patch Dam (∼646 ka), Dibekulewe (∼610 ka), Tulelake T64 (∼95 ka), Marble Bluff (47 ka), and Trego Hot Springs (23.2 ka) tephra layers are present in the section, indicating deposition from more than ∼646 ka to less than 23 ka, which includes both the late Irvingtonian and Rancholabrean North American land mammal ages, a much longer time span than previously believed. Bones analyzed from eight of the defined units have distinctly different rare earth element (REE) signatures. Fossils obtain REE during early diagenesis, and signatures are probably closely related to lake water compositions. REE signatures in fossils from lower packages suggest uptake from neutral pH waters. In contrast, REE signatures become increasingly heavy REE–enriched up-section, with positive Ce anomalies in the upper units. REE signatures in fossils from the upper units are very similar to waters from modern alkaline lakes, such as Lake Abert, Oregon, suggesting diagenetic uptake in increasingly alkaline and saline waters. These REE changes suggest increasing aridity up-section, a contention reinforced by the habitat preferences of the terrestrial vertebrates preserved.