Effects of taxonomic and locality inaccuracies on biostratigraphy and biochronology of the Hueso and Tapiado formations in the Vallecito Creek-Fish Creek section, Anza-Borrego Desert, California
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The fossiliferous sediments of the Hueso and Tapiado formations exposed in the Vallecito Creek-Fish Creek section (VCFC) of the Anza-Borrego Desert (ABD) span the boundary between Blancan and Irvingtonian North American Land Mammal 'Ages.' Historically, the determination of the Blancan-Irvingtonian (B-I) boundary in the VCFC proved problematic. A new study to determine the B-I boundary in the VCFC revealed data inaccuracies in both published works and curatorial records of the mammal and other vertebrate fossils from the ABD. Most individual inaccuracies were minor, but an accumulation of over 50 years of multiple inaccuracies had significant effects on local and regional biostratigraphic and biochronologic correlations. A detailed investigation of the inaccurate data resulted in recognition of 17 types of error, with at least five sources. The two most prominent sources of error are those derived from publication and curation protocols. Examination of over 150 publications and in-house faunal lists produced over 830 taxonomic names and format variants, for 110 mammalian taxa identified from the ABD and VCFC. Approximately 50% of the taxonomic identifications were previously published without voucher catalogue numbers or fossil descriptions. A critical review of the taxonomic assignments resulted in an updated faunal list of ABD terrestrial Mammalia, including 110 taxonomic names, 66 unqualified genera, and 46 unqualified species. A supplemental list of 'retired' taxa includes 178 previously published or listed taxonomic names and format variants. The 4.5 km sequence of originally superposed sediments within VCFC is now tilted at 23 degrees and exposed in plan view. This exposure was captured in both aerial photos and satellite imagery. GIS layers of the Geomagnetic Polarity Time Scale and individual collecting localities are readily superposed onto the stratigraphic images. When united with the faunal database, GIS maps of biostratigraphic data facilitate detection and correction of data errors. Resulting corrected maps show highest and lowest stratigraphic occurrences of taxa, as well as geographic clustering of taxonomic groups, outlining possible paleohabitats. As a result of data improvement and GIS display, the local B-I boundary currently is best estimated by the presence of Ovibovini at >1.42 Ma.