Over 13,000 elements from a single bonebed help elucidate disarticulation and transport of an Edmontosaurus thanatocoenosis.
Over twenty years of work on the Hanson Ranch (HR) Bonebed in the Lance Formation of eastern Wyoming has yielded over 13,000 individual elements primarily of the hadrosaurid dinosaur Edmontosaurus annectens. The fossil bones are found normally-graded within a fine-grained (claystone to siltstone) bed that varies from one to two meters in thickness. Almost all specimens exhibit exquisite preservation (i.e., little to no abrasion, weathering, and breakage), but they are disarticulated which, combined with our sedimentological observations, suggests that the bones were remobilized and buried after a period of initial decay and disarticulation of Edmontosaurus carcasses. Because of the large number of recovered fossil elements, we have been able to gain deeper insight into Edmontosaurus biostratigraphy including disarticulation and transport of skeletal elements. The most common postcranial elements in the bonebed are pubes, ischia, scapulae, ribs, and limb bones. By contrast, vertebrae, ilia, and chevrons are rare. The most common craniomandibular bones include dentaries, nasals, quadrates, and jugals, whereas the premaxillae, predentaries, and braincase bones are underrepresented. Thus, overall, chondrocranial and axial elements, as well as distal elements of the limbs, are distinctly underrepresented. We hypothesize that following decay and disarticulation, hydraulic winnowing removed the articulated sections (e.g., vertebral columns) and the small, distal-most elements before, or at the same time, the remaining bones were swept up in a subaqueous debris flow that generated the deposit. Comparison of the HR Bonebed with other widely dispersed Upper Cretaceous hadrosaurid-dominated bonebeds reveals many shared attributes, which suggests similar processes at work in the formation of these bonebeds across space and time. This in turn reflects similar behavior by populations of these species around the world resulting in similar modes of death, becoming interred in similar depositional settings.
Snyder, Keith; McLain, Matthew Dr.; Wood, Jared Dr.; and Chadwick, Art Dr., "Over 13,000 elements from a single bonebed help elucidate disarticulation and transport of an Edmontosaurus thanatocoenosis." (2020). Faculty Works. 7.