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Evidence for taphonomic size bias in the Dinosaur Park Formation (Campanian, Alberta), a model Mesozoic terrestrial alluvial‐paralic system
Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology.
Royal Museum of Nature.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
University of Toronto.
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2013 (English)In: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, ISSN 0031-0182, E-ISSN 1872-616X, Vol. 372, no SI, 108-122 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A study of the distribution of dinosaurian body masses in the Dinosaur Park Formation (DPF; Campanian; southern Alberta), reveals a prominent negative skew; a pattern distinct from those of modern terrestrial faunas. We find a direct and robust correlation between taxon size (estimated live body mass) and known completeness. There is a clear dichotomy between large and small-bodied taxa at around 60 kg, in which taxa less than 60 kg are significantly less complete (mean completeness = 7.6%) than those with an estimated mass of 60 kg or greater (mean = 78.2%). Along with completeness, there is also a strong association of body size and taphonomic mode, with small taxa known largely from isolated and occasionally associated remains, and large taxa known from articulated skeletons. In addition, there is a significant correlation between taxon body mass and both date of discovery and of description, with taxa < 60 kg taking an average of 65.9 and 75.6 years to discover and describe, respectively, compared to 33.6 and 34.1 years for taxa > 60 kg. The rates of both cumulative discovery and description for large taxa are best described by a logarithmic curve nearing an asymptote, whereas small taxa show either a linear or power increase through time. This suggests that our current knowledge of the large-bodied dinosaur assemblage is reasonably representative of the true biological fauna with few discoveries likely to be made in the future. However, small taxa are greatly underestimated in both their diversity and abundance, with many more potential discoveries to be made. Given that (1) the sedimentary deposits and fossil assemblages in the DPF together represent one of the best studied examples of a Mesozoic alluvial‐paralic (terrestrial) ‘palaeoecosystem,’ and (2) similar patterns have been suggested (but not documented) for other Mesozoic terrestrial ecosystems in the Western Interior of North America, we suggest that this pattern of size bias may typify vertebrate fossil assemblages in terrestrial Mesozoic systems. If so, such biases must be considered before patterns of diversity in dinosaur communities through time can be considered accurate, or used to compare and interpret Mesozoic palaeoecosystems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2013. Vol. 372, no SI, 108-122 p.
Keyword [en]
Size, Body mass, Taphonomy, Dinosaur, Diversity, Taphonomic bias
National Category
Zoology Evolutionary Biology Geology
Research subject
Biology with specialization in Evolutionary Organismal Biology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-217205DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.06.027ISI: 000315762300009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-217205DiVA: diva2:692501


► DPF is a model Mesozoic alluvial system to test taphonomic effects of body size. ► DPF assemblage has a negative skew in dinosaur body size distribution. ► Strong correlations of mass vs. completeness, taphonomic mode and description year. ► This indicates a strong taphonomic bias against perseveration of small animals. ► DPF, and other alluvial systems, may under represent the diversity of small taxa.

Available from: 2014-01-31 Created: 2014-01-31 Last updated: 2014-01-31Bibliographically approved

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Campione, Nicolas E.
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