The fossil record of dinosaurs is a rich, if biased, one with nearly complete skeletons, partial skeletons, and isolated parts found in diverse, well-studied faunal assemblages around the world. Among the recognized biases are the preferential preservation of large dinosaurs and the systematic underrepresentation of small dinosaurs. Such biases have been quantitatively described in the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta, where large, nearly complete dinosaurs were found and described early in collecting history and small, very incomplete dinosaurs were found and described later. This pattern, apparently replicated in the Maastrichtian Hell Creek Formation of Montana, is so striking that it begs the question of whether this is a nomothetic principle for the preservation of dinosaur faunas elsewhere. We tested this hypothesis by analyzing the very well-studied dinosaur fauna of the Upper Jurassic (Kimmeridgian) Morrison Formation of the western United States. The Morrison Formation fails to show any correlation between body size and completeness, order of discovery, or order of description. Both large and small dinosaurs of the Morrison include highly complete as well as highly incomplete taxa, and both large and small dinosaurs were discovered and described early in collecting history as well as more recently. The differences in preservation between the Dinosaur Park Formation and the Morrison Formation are so striking that we posit a Dinosaur Park model of dinosaur fossil preservation and a Morrison model. Future study will show whether either or both represent durable nomothetic models for dinosaur fossil preservation.
The promise of taphonomy as a nomothetic discipline: taphonomic bias in two dinosaur-bearing faunas in North America1
Corresponding author: Connor Leach (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Connor T. Leach, Emma Hoffman, Peter Dodson; The promise of taphonomy as a nomothetic discipline: taphonomic bias in two dinosaur-bearing faunas in North America1. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 2021;; 58 (9): 852–869. doi: https://doi.org/10.1139/cjes-2020-0176
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