The end-Cretaceous (K/Pg) mass extinction event is the most recent and well-understood of the “big five” and triggered establishment of modern terrestrial ecosystem structure. Despite the depth of research into this event, our knowledge of upper Maastrichtian terrestrial deposits globally relies primarily on assemblage-level data limited to a few well-sampled formations in North America, the Hell Creek and Lance Formations. These assemblages disproportionally affect our interpretations of this important interval. Multiple investigations have quantified diversity patterns within these assemblages, but the potential effect of formation-level size-dependent taphonomic biases and their implications on extinction dynamics remains unexplored. Here, the relationship between taphonomy and body size of the Hell Creek Formation and Lance Formation dinosaurs and mammals are quantitatively analyzed. Small-bodied dinosaur taxa (<70 kg) are consistently less complete, unlikely to be articulated, and delayed in their description relative to their large-bodied counterparts. Family-level abundance (particularly skeletons) is strongly tied to body mass, and the relative abundance of juveniles of large-bodied taxa similarly is underrepresented. Mammals show similar but nonsignificant trends. The results are remarkably similar to those from the Campanian-aged Dinosaur Park Formation, suggesting a widespread strong taphonomic bias against the preservation of small taxa, which will result in their seemingly depauperate diversity within the assemblage. This taphonomically skewed view of diversity and abundance of small-bodied taxa amid our best late Maastrichtian samples has significant implications for understanding speciation and extinction dynamics (e.g., size-dependent extinction selectivity) across the K/Pg boundary.

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