Abstract

A high-resolution biostratigraphic analysis of 287 dinosaurian macrofossils and 138 bonebeds in the Edmonton Group (Upper Cretaceous) of southern Alberta provides evidence for at least three dinosaurian assemblage zones in the Horseshoe Canyon Formation (HCFm). From bottom to top the zones comprise unique assemblages of ornithischians and are named as follows: (1) Edmontosaurus regalisPachyrhinosaurus canadensis (lower zone); (2) Hypacrosaurus altispinusSaurolophus osborni (middle zone); and (3) Eotriceratops xerinsularis (upper zone). Whereas the lower and middle zones are well defined and based on abundant specimens, the validity of the uppermost zone (E. xerinsularis) is tentative because it is based on a single specimen and the absence of dinosaur taxa from lower in section. The transition from the lower to the middle zone coincides with the replacement of a warm-and-wet saturated deltaic setting by a cooler, coastal-plain landscape, characterized by seasonal rainfall and better-drained substrates. Whereas changes in rainfall and substrate drainage appear to have influenced the faunal change, changes in mean annual temperature and proximity to shoreline appear to have had little influence on faunal change. We speculate that the faunal change between the middle and upper zones also resulted from a change in climate, with ornithischian dinosaurs responding to the re-establishment of wetter-and-warmer climates and poorly-drained substrates. Compared with the shorter-duration and climatically-consistent dinosaurian assemblage zones in the older Dinosaur Park Formation of southern Alberta, HCFm assemblage zones record long-term morphological stasis in dinosaurs. Furthermore, the coincidence of faunal and paleoenvironmental changes in the HCFm suggest climate-change-driven dinosaur migrations into and out of the region.

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