Field of Science

This is the Kind of Study I'd Like to See Get Done More Often

I remain convinced that figuring out larger problems starts with the detailed collection of data at a smaller scale.  This is exactly the type of study I'd like to consider for the Chinle Formation.....

Lyson, T. R., and N. R. Longrich. 2010. Spatial niche partitioning in dinosaurs from the latest cretaceous (Maastrichtian) of North America. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Published online before print October 13, 2010, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1444

Abstract - We examine patterns of occurrence of associated dinosaur specimens (n = 343) from the North American Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation and equivalent beds, by comparing their relative abundance in sandstone and mudstone. Ceratopsians preferentially occur in mudstone, whereas hadrosaurs and the small ornithopod Thescelosaurus show a strong association with sandstone. By contrast, the giant carnivore Tyrannosaurus rex shows no preferred association with either lithology. These lithologies are used as an indicator of environment of deposition, with sandstone generally representing river environments, and finer grained sediments typically representing floodplain environments. Given these patterns of occurrence, we argue that spatial niche partitioning helped reduce competition for resources between the herbivorous dinosaurs. Within coastal lowlands ceratopsians preferred habitats farther away from rivers, whereas hadrosaurs and Thescelosaurus preferred habitats in close proximity to rivers, and T. rex, the ecosystem's sole large carnivore, inhabited both palaeoenvironments. Spatial partitioning of the environment helps explain how several species of large herbivorous dinosaurs coexisted. This study emphasizes that different lithologies can preserve dramatically dissimilar vertebrate assemblages, even when deposited in close proximity and within a narrow window of time. The lithology in which fossils are preserved should be recorded as these data can provide unique insights into the palaeoecology of the animals they preserve.


  1. I agree. The trick is convincing funding agencies and employers that the detailed descriptive work needed for these kinds of syntheses should be supported.

  2. Neat approach, however it really only shows where the animals died, not where they lived. How many wildebeest die crossing a river? might lead one to think that they are semi-aquatic.

  3. Uh...hadrosaurs? By the way, I'm sitting outi in the Painted Desert, miles from anywhere as I post this. I love modern technology.


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