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Over a century has passed since 1901 when W.T. Hornaday showed a fragment of a horn of Triceratops found in the valley of Hell Creek to H.F. Osborn at the American Museum of Natural History. The following year Osborn's assistant, Barnum Brown, was dispatched to eastern Montana and began investigations of its geology and paleontology. By 1929, Brown had published a geological analysis of the rocks exposed in the southern tributaries of the Missouri River, named the Hell Creek Formation, and published studies of some of the dinosaurs discovered there. Parts of his collections of fossil mollusks, plants, and vertebrates contributed to research by others, particularly members of the U.S. Geological Survey. From 1930 to 1959, fieldwork was slowed by the Great Depression and World War II, but both the continuing search for coal, oil, and gas as well as collections of fossils made during construction of Fort Peck Dam set the stage for later research. Field parties from several museums collected dinosaurian skeletons in the area between 1960 and 1971. In 1962, concentrations of microvertebrates were rediscovered in McCone County by field parties from the University of Minnesota. Ten years later, field parties from the University of California Museum of Paleontology began collecting microvertebrates from exposures in the valley of Hell Creek and its tributaries. The research based on this field research provided detailed geological and paleontological analyses of the Hell Creek Formation and its biota. In turn, these contributed to studies of evolutionary patterns and the processes that produced the changes in the terrestrial biota across the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.

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