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From Tyrannosaurus rex to asteroid impact: Early studies (1901–1980) of the Hell Creek Formation in its type area

By
William A. Clemens
William A. Clemens
Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-4780, USA
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Joseph H. Hartman
Joseph H. Hartman
Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58202-8358, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2014

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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GSA Special Papers

Through the End of the Cretaceous in the Type Locality of the Hell Creek Formation in Montana and Adjacent Areas

Gregory P. Wilson
Gregory P. Wilson
Department of Biology and Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-1800, USA
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William A. Clemens
William A. Clemens
Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720-4780, USA
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John R. Horner
John R. Horner
Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717-0040, USA
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Joseph H. Hartman
Joseph H. Hartman
Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58202-8358, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
503
ISBN print:
9780813725031
Publication date:
January 01, 2014

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