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Paleobiological implications of a Triceratops bonebed from the Hell Creek Formation, Garfield County, northeastern Montana

By
Sarah W. Keenan
Sarah W. Keenan
Department of Geography and Geosciences, University of St. Andrews, Irvine Building, St. Andrews, Fife, KY16 9AJ, UK
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John B. Scannella
John B. Scannella
Museum of the Rockies and Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, 600 West Kagy Boulevard, Bozeman, Montana 59717, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2014

Ceratopsid dinosaurs are notable for their common occurrences in bonebeds; however, until recently, these have not been encountered for the chasmosaurine Triceratops. The aim of this investigation is to describe the taphonomy of Quittin' Time (Museum of the Rockies locality HC-430), a Triceratops bonebed in the Hell Creek Formation, Garfield County, Montana. Using site taphonomic descriptions with an evaluation of ontogeny, inferences regarding the paleobiology of this extinct taxon are possible. The locality is associated with abundant organic material, including woody debris, large seeds, and other fragments in isolated silty lenses, all incorporated within a siltstone matrix, indicating preservation within a floodplain environment. Based on the repetition and ontogenetic stages of cranial elements, the minimum number of individuals (MNI) is three. Evidence from the location and taphonomic condition of the bones preserved in close proximity within the same siltstone unit suggests that the individuals—one young adult, one subadult, and a juvenile—likely accumulated during distinct flooding events within a narrow region of the floodplain as a result of “bloat-and-float” transport. The relatively small scale of the bonebed, both in terms of total area and number of individuals, implies that future work on Triceratops sites requires careful scrutiny of cranial elements examined within an ontogenetic framework because they are potentially critical to establishing MNI. Preservation of multiple individuals within the same unit does not necessarily provide evidence of gregarious behavior in Triceratops but rather may be a reflection of site taphonomic history and accumulation processes.

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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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