Stratigraphic unit

A stratigraphic unit is a volume of rock of identifiable origin and relative age range that is defined by the distinctive and dominant, easily mapped and recognizable petrographic, lithologic or paleontologic features (facies) that characterize it.

Units must be mappable and distinct from one another, but the contact need not be particularly distinct. For instance, a unit may be defined by terms such as "when the sandstone component exceeds 75%".

Lithostratigraphic units

The Permian through Jurassic strata of the Colorado Plateau area of southeastern Utah demonstrate the principles of stratigraphy. These strata make up much of the famous prominent rock formations in widely spaced protected areas such as Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park. From top to bottom: Rounded tan domes of the Navajo Sandstone, layered red Kayenta Formation, cliff-forming, vertically jointed, red Wingate Sandstone, slope-forming, purplish Chinle Formation, layered, lighter-red Moenkopi Formation, and white, layered Cutler Formation sandstone. Picture from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.

Sequences of sedimentary and volcanic rocks are subdivided on the basis of their lithology. Going from smaller to larger in scale, the main units recognised are Bed, Member, Formation, Group and Supergroup.[1][2]


A bed is a lithologically distinct layer within a member or formation and is the smallest recognisable stratigraphic unit. These are not normally named, but may be in the case of a marker horizon.[3]


A member is a named lithologically distinct part of a formation. Not all formations are subdivided in this way and even where they are recognized, they may only form part of the formation.[3]


For more details on formation as a lithostratigraphic unit, see Geological formation.

Formations are the primary units used in the subdivision of a sequence and may vary in scale from tens of centimetres to kilometres. They should be distinct lithologically from other formations, although the boundaries do not need to be sharp. To be formally recognised, a formation must have sufficient extent to be useful in mapping an area.[3]


A group is an aggregate of two or more formations that share certain lithological characteristics. A group may be made up of different formations in different geographical areas and individual formations may appear in more than one group.[3]


A supergroup is an aggregate of two or more associated groups and/or formations that share certain lithological characteristics. A supergroup may be made up of different groups in different geographical areas.[3]

Biostratigraphic units

Main article: Biostratigraphy

A sequence of fossil-bearing sedimentary rocks can be subdivided on the basis of the occurrence of particular fossil taxa. A unit defined in this way is known as a biostratigraphic unit, generally shortened to biozone.[4] The five commonly used types of biozone are assemblage, range, abundance, interval and lineage zones.[5]

See also


  1. Mathur S.M. (2008). Elements of Geology. pp. 129–130. ISBN 9788120335158.
  2. Brookfield M.E. (2008). Principles of Stratigraphy. John Wiley & Sons. p. 200. ISBN 9780470693223.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Chapter 5. Lithostratigraphic Units". International Commission on Stratigraphy. 2013–2014. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Thierry J. & Galeotti S. (2008). "Biostratigraphy from taxon to biozones and biozonal schemes". In Rey J. & Galeotti S. Stratigraphy: Terminology and Practice. Editions OPHRYS. pp. 64–73. ISBN 9782710809104.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Chapter 7. Biostratigraphic Units". International Commission on Stratigraphy. 2013–2014. Retrieved 4 June 2014.

External links

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