Abstract

One of the southernmost North American late Campanian microvertebrate assemblages was collected from the upper Aguja Formation, Big Bend National Park, Texas. The dinosaurs provide additional evidence that distinct southern and northern terrestrial vertebrate provinces occurred contemporaneously during this time due to latitudinal differences in temperature and rainfall. Southern areas, such as west Texas, were warm dry, with non-seasonal climates, and with open-canopy woodlands; they appear to be less fossil-rich and less diverse than northern areas. Nine dinosaurs are present, based on isolated teeth: pachycephalosaurid; hadrosaurid; ceratopsian; tyrannosaurid; Saurornitholestes cf. langstoni (Sues, 1978); Richardoestesia cf. gilmorei (Currie et al., 1990); a new species of Richardoestesia, which is named here; and a undetermined theropod unlike any previously described. Previous reports of Troodon sp. from the Talley Mt. and Terlingua microsites are mistaken; they are a pachycephalosaurid. Many of the dinosaur teeth are small, and are probably from juveniles or younger individuals, evidence that dinosaurs nested in the area. Paleoecologically, the upper Aguja was probably more similar to the lower and more inland faunas of the Scollard Formation (∼66 Ma) of Alberta than to contemporaneous northern faunas: both had drier, open environments and lower dinosaur abundance. This connection between climate and dinosaur abundance suggests that climatic factors were important in the Late Cretaceous dinosaur extinctions.

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