Ghost-dune hollows on the eastern Snake River Plain (ESRP), Idaho, USA, are topographically inverted, crescent-shaped depressions that record the partial encasement of sand dunes by ca. 61 ka basalt lava flows. Deflation of these “ghost” sand dunes produced approximately two dozen, 5–10-m-deep ghost-dune hollows now incompletely filled with pedogenically altered eolian and colluvial sediment. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and 40Ar/39Ar ages constrain a ghost-dune hollow model that illuminates the late Pleistocene to Holocene environmental and climate history of the ESRP. Detrital zircon analyses indicate sand-dune supply routes changed following the burial of Pleistocene Henrys Fork (tributary of the Snake River) alluvium by ca. 70 ka basalt flows. Removal of Henrys Fork alluvium from the eolian supply system made Lake Terreton sediment the primary source for later ESRP sand dunes. Such sediment supply changes highlight the potential impacts of effusive volcanism on sand-dune histories and landscapes. Our results support stratigraphic and sedimentary modeling of comparable ghost-dune “pit” deposits older than ca. 2 Ga on Mars that may have served as refugia for early life on that planet. Analogous ancient ghost-dune hollow deposits on Earth may also have served as early life refugia.
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