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Results of this study of the macrofossils of the Bakken Formation in North Dakota have reinforced the suggestion, based on previous paleontological work in Saskatchewan, that the Bakken is of both Devonian and Mississippian age, rather than being entirely of Lower Mississippian age as originally considered. Increased drilling and coring activity in the North Dakota part of the Williston basin has provided the opportunity for acquiring a larger fauna than was previously available. Most of the fossils were obtained from the middle part of the Bakken Formation.
Based on lithologic character, the Bakken has been divided into three informal members. These consist of a calcareous siltstone unit between two lithologically similar units of carbonaceous shale. These black shales contain similar faunas distinct from that of the middle member. The black shales contain inarticulate brachiopods, conchostracans, and rare cephalopods and fish remains as well as more abundant conodonts, ostracods, and palynomorphs. The middle siltstone unit contains a more abundant and diverse fauna consisting of inarticulate and articulate brachiopods together with corals, gastropods, cephalopods, ostracods, echinoderm remains, and trace fossils. This is the first report of cephalopods, conchostracans, ostracods, corals, trace fossils, and some of the brachiopods in the Bakken, although all, except the gastropods, have been reported from stratigraphic equivalents (Exshaw Formation of Alberta, the Sappington Member of the Three Forks Formation of south-central Montana, the Leatham Formation of northeastern Utah, and the middle member of the Pilot Shale in western Utah and eastern Nevada). The Bakken macrofauna adds another dimension to interpretation of the depositional environment and paleoecology of offshore, sediment-starved, basinal units.
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