Abstract

Trace fossils on sauropod skeletons from a quarry in fluvial deposits of the Morrison Formation, Wyoming, are used to reconstruct the taphonomic history of the dinosaur bone accumulation. Shallow pits; rosettes; hemispherical pits; thin, curvilinear, branching grooves; and U- to V-shaped linear grooves make up trace fossils found on sauropod skeletons. The traces were interpreted by comparisons to traces on modern bone. Rosettes are circular rings of modified bone and are likely an early stage in the production of shallow pits. They are interpreted as pupation chambers constructed in dried flesh in contact with sauropod bone. Hemispherical pits are circular with a U-shaped cross section and interpreted as dermestid pupation chambers completed in sauropod bone. Thin, curvilinear, branching grooves are semicircular in cross section, form irregular dendritic or looping patterns, and are interpreted as root etchings. U- to V-shaped linear grooves are interpreted as theropod or crocodilian bite marks. Skeletal articulation and condition and distribution of bone modification traces suggest the skeletons accumulated at this site over no more than 3.5 years, with the bulk of the skeletons contributed during the dry season in the final 3–6 months. Carcasses went through all stages of decomposition—including the dry stage, represented by shallow pits, rosettes, and hemispherical pits. Vertebrate scavengers and necrophagous arthropods fed on the carcasses during all decomposition stages prior to burial of the assemblage.

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