The palaeontology and dating of the ‘Weybourne Crag’, an important marker horizon in the Early Pleistocene of the southern North Sea basin

Richard C. Preece*, Tom Meijer, Kirsty E.H. Penkman, Beatrice Demarchi, David F. Mayhew, Simon A. Parfitt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the North Sea basin the marine bivalve Macoma balthica first appears within the Early Pleistocene ‘Weybourne Crag’, which forms an important biostratigraphical datum. Here we review the fossil assemblages from sites of this age, prompted by new discoveries from Sidestrand, Norfolk, UK. The molluscan assemblages from this horizon are dominated by intertidal species with some colder/deeper water taxa and a few temperate non-marine species. A high boreal/low arctic marine environment with reduced salinities is indicated. An extensive assemblage of small mammals dominated by voles includes two species (Mimomys hordijki and Ungaromys dehmi) previously unknown from the British Pleistocene. The assemblage can be assigned to Tesakov's Mammal Biozone MNR1 (=MN17, Middle Villafranchian), which according to current estimates corresponds to a date of ∼2.2-2.1 Ma (MIS 84-79). It matches another assemblage from -61 m to -65 m in the Zuurland-2 borehole in The Netherlands, and is similar to that from the Dutch Tiglian type site at Tegelen, although this has more temperate elements. A late Tiglian age is consistent with the co-occurrence of the marine bivalves Macoma balthica, Mya arenaria and the freshwater gastropod Viviparus glacialis in the Zuurland-2 borehole and in a North Sea borehole (BGS 52-02-472). A Macoma balthica – Mya arenaria Concurrent Range Zone is defined for this assemblage, which can be traced across the North Sea basin. Amino acid dating provides strong independent support for these correlations and indicates that the Baventian cold stage post-dates the Bramertonian (Norwich Crag). It also confirms that Early Pleistocene molluscan assemblages with M. balthica are younger than those without it. The correlation of this marine marker horizon with Mammal Biozone MNR1 provides a secure link between continental and marine sequences during the Early Pleistocene. It also provides a basis for dating events in the pre-glacial fluvial drainage history and linking it to the East European mammal zonation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106177
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date20 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Amino acid dating
  • Baventian
  • Early Pleistocene
  • Mammals
  • Molluscs
  • Norwich Crag
  • The Netherlands
  • Weybourne Crag
  • Wroxham Crag

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