First Clarkforkian equivalent Land Mammal Age in the latest Paleocene basal Sparnacian facies of Europe: fauna, flora, paleoenvironment and (bio)stratigraphy

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 29;9(1):e86229. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086229. eCollection 2014.


The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is correlated with the first occurrences of earliest modern mammals in the Northern Hemisphere. The latest Paleocene Clarkforkian North American Land Mammal Age, that has yielded rodents and carnivorans, is the only exception to this rule. However, until now no pre-PETM localities have yielded modern mammals in Europe or Asia. We report the first Clarkforkian equivalent Land Mammal Age in the latest Paleocene deposits of the basal Sparnacian facies at Rivecourt, in the north-central part of the Paris Basin. The new terrestrial vertebrate and macroflora assemblages are analyzed through a multidisciplinary study including sedimentologic, stratigraphic, isotopic, and palynological aspects in order to reconstruct the paleoenvironment and to evaluate biochronologic and paleogeographic implications. The mammals are moderately diverse and not abundant, contrary to turtles and champsosaurs. The macroflora is exceptional in preservation and diversity with numerous angiosperms represented by flowers, fruits, seeds and wood preserved as lignite material, revealing an abundance of Arecaceae, Betulaceae, Icacinaceae, Menispermaceae, Vitaceae and probably Cornaceae. Results indicate a Late Paleocene age based on carbon isotope data, palynology and vertebrate occurrences such as the choristoderan Champsosaurus, the arctocyonid Arctocyon, and the plesiadapid Plesiadapis tricuspidens. However, several mammal species compare better with the earliest Eocene. Among these, the particular louisinid Teilhardimys musculus, also recorded from the latest Paleocene of the Spanish Pyrenees, suggests a younger age than the typical MP6 reference level. Nevertheless, the most important aspect of the Rivecourt fauna is the presence of dental remains of a rodent and a "miacid" carnivoran, attesting to the presence of two modern mammalian orders in the latest Paleocene of Europe. Interestingly, these two groups are also the only modern groups recorded from the latest Paleocene of North America, making Rivecourt the first direct equivalent to the Clarkforkian Land Mammal Age outside of North America.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amphibians / anatomy & histology
  • Amphibians / classification
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Birds / anatomy & histology
  • Birds / classification
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Europe
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology
  • Fishes / classification
  • Fossils*
  • Geologic Sediments
  • Mammals / anatomy & histology*
  • Mammals / classification
  • Paleontology
  • Phylogeny*
  • Plants / anatomy & histology
  • Plants / classification
  • Reptiles / anatomy & histology
  • Reptiles / classification


  • Carbon Isotopes

Grant support

This work was supported by projects MO/36/020 and BR/121/A3/PALEURAFRICA of the Federal Science Policy Office of Belgium (to TS;, and Research cooperation contract funded by the BRGM (“Régolithe” and “Paléosurface éocène–PETM” research projects; to FQ, TS, CD, AI, ER and JYS; The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.