Abstract

Upper Cretaceous dinosaur bonebeds are common in Alberta, Canada, and have attracted continuous scientific attention since the 1960s. Since its inception, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology has documented the presence of hundreds of these sites and has been involved directly in the scientific study of many tens. Because many of these bonebeds have been used to address questions about the paleobiology and paleoecology of dinosaurs, questions have arisen about bonebed origins and preservation in the Cretaceous of Alberta. This study of 260 bonebeds delineates broad paleoenvironmental settings and associations, and taphonomic signatures of assemblages as a first step in assessing patterns of dinosaur bonebed origins in the Upper Cretaceous of Alberta. Bonebeds are known predominantly from the Belly River Group and the Horseshoe Canyon, lower St. Mary River, Wapiti, and Scollard formations. In these units, bonebeds are mostly associated with river channel and alluvial wetland settings that were influenced by a subtropical to warm-temperate, monsoonal climate. Most bonebeds formed in response to flooding events capable of killing dinosaurs, reworking and modifying skeletal remains, and burying taphocoenoses. The “coastal-plain-flooding hypothesis,” proposed in 2005, suggested that many bonebeds in the Dinosaur Park Formation formed in response to the effects of recurring coastal-plain floods that submerged vast areas of ancient southern Alberta on a seasonal basis. It remains the best mechanism to explain how many of the bonebeds were formed and preserved at Dinosaur Provincial Park, and here, is proposed as the mechanism that best explains bonebed origins in other Upper Cretaceous formations across central and southern Alberta.

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