Abstract

The Sun River Bonebed is a monodominant assemblage of late juvenile lambeosaurine elements from the Upper Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of north-central Montana, United States. Detailed excavation revealed an unusual paleobiologic and depositional signature. Although the bonebed occurs in a succession of beds representing anastomosing stream deposits in a seasonal paleoenvironment, the assemblage consists of a conglomerate of bone and calcareous clasts in a matrix of silty mud and free-floating sand grains. Internally, the bed exhibits normal grading of bone and calcareous clasts, poor sediment sorting, and preferred orientation of elongate elements, all characteristics common to debris flow deposits. The mud-rich matrix, poor sorting, and graded clasts of the bonebed suggest the assemblage was entrained and deposited by a cohesive debris flow, perhaps initiated through entrainment of fine overbank sediment by a seasonal flood. Nearly complete skeletal disarticulation and weathering of some bones indicate a brief period of postmortem exposure prior to debris flow entrainment. Fracture styles suggesting fresh breaks and frequent abrasion may reflect pre-flow trampling or chaotic flow transport. A significant number of elements also exhibit wet rot. The uniformity in taphonomic effects among elements suggests a mass mortality event, a rarity for debris-flow-hosted bonebeds, though the specific cause of death is uncertain. The age class dominance is interpreted to reflect original paleobiology, rather than abiotic postmortem selection, and establishes the Sun River Bonebed as the first bonebed of predominantly late juvenile material, with no adult material, in the Two Medicine Formation.

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