An Early Cretaceous (Berriasian) fossil-bearing locality from the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, yielding the oldest dinosaur skeletal remains from western Canada

Publication: Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences
19 December 2019

Abstract

Western North America preserves iconic dinosaur faunas from the Upper Jurassic and Upper Cretaceous, but this record is interrupted by an approximately 20 Myr gap with essentially no terrestrial vertebrate fossil localities. This poorly sampled interval is nonetheless important because it is thought to include a possible mass extinction, the origin of orogenic controls on dinosaur spatial distribution, and the origin of important Upper Cretaceous dinosaur taxa. Therefore, dinosaur-bearing rocks from this interval are of particular interest to vertebrate palaeontologists. In this study, we report on one such locality from Highwood Pass, Alberta. This locality has yielded a multitaxic assemblage, with the most diagnostic material identified so far including ankylosaurian osteoderms and a turtle plastron element. The fossil horizon lies within the upper part of the Pocaterra Creek Member of the Cadomin Formation (Blairmore Group). The fossils are assigned as Berriasian (earliest Cretaceous) in age, based on previous palynomorph analyses of the Pocaterra Creek Member and underlying and overlying strata. The fossils lie within numerous cross-bedded sandstone beds separated by pebble lenses. These sediments are indicative of a relatively high-energy depositional environment, and the distribution of these fossils over multiple beds indicates that they accumulated over multiple events, possibly flash floods. The fossils exhibit a range of surface weathering, having intact to heavily weathered cortices. The presence of definitive dinosaur material from near the Jurassic–Cretaceous boundary of Alberta establishes the oldest record of dinosaur body fossils in western Canada and provides a unique opportunity to study the Early Cretaceous dinosaur faunas of western North America.

Résumé

Des assemblages de dinosaures emblématiques du Jurassique supérieur au Crétacé supérieur sont préservés dans l’ouest de l’Amérique du Nord, mais ce registre est interrompu par une pause d’environ 20 millions d’années caractérisée par l’absence presque totale de localités à fossiles de vertébrés terrestres. Cet intervalle mal représenté n’en est pas moins important parce qu’il comprendrait une possible extinction massive, l’origine de contrôles orogéniques de la répartition spatiale de dinosaures et l’origine d’importants taxons de dinosaures du Crétacé supérieur. Les roches renfermant des dinosaures de cet intervalle sont donc particulièrement intéressantes pour les paléontologues s’intéressant aux vertébrés. Nous faisons état d’une telle localité à Highwood Pass (Alberta), qui a produit un assemblage multitaxons duquel le matériau le plus diagnostic obtenu à ce jour comprend des ostéodermes ankylosauriens et un élément de plastron de tortue. L’horizon fossilifère se trouve dans la partie supérieure du membre de Pocaterra Creek de la Formation de Cadomin (Groupe de Blairmore). Un âge berriasien (début du Crétacé) est attribué aux fossiles à la lumière d’analyses antérieures de palynomorphes dans le membre de Pocaterra Creek et des strates sous-jacentes et sus-jacentes. Les fossiles sont présents dans de nombreux lits de grès à stratification croisée séparés par des lentilles de galets. Ces sédiments indiquent un milieu de dépôt assez dynamique, et la répartition des fossiles dans plusieurs lits indique qu’ils se sont accumulés au fil de plusieurs évènements, possiblement des crues éclairs. Les fossiles présentent un éventail de types de météorisation, montrant des cortex intacts à fortement météorisés. La présence de matériau définitivement dinosaurien à proximité de la limite Jurassique–Crétacé de l’Alberta établit la présence la plus ancienne de fossiles de corps de dinosaure dans l’Ouest canadien et offre une occasion unique d’étudier les assemblages de dinosaures du Crétacé précoce de l’ouest de l’Amérique du Nord. [Traduit par la Rédaction]

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Published In

cover image Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences
Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences
Volume 57Number 4April 2020
Pages: 542 - 552

History

Received: 3 September 2019
Accepted: 16 December 2019
Published online: 19 December 2019

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Key Words

  1. Ankylosauria
  2. Berriasian
  3. Blairmore Group
  4. Cadomin Formation
  5. Early Cretaceous
  6. Kananaskis
  7. osteoderm
  8. Pocaterra Creek Member
  9. Rocky Mountains
  10. Testudines

Mots-clés

  1. ankylosaures
  2. Berriasien
  3. Groupe de Blairmore
  4. Formation de Cadomin
  5. Crétacé précoce
  6. Kananaskis
  7. ostéoderme
  8. membre de Pocaterra Creek
  9. montagnes Rocheuses
  10. testudinés

Authors

Affiliations

Ramon S. Nagesan rnagesan@umich.edu
Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, 3600 Varsity Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48108-2228, USA.
James A. Campbell
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada.
Jason D. Pardo
Department of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N 4N1, Canada.
Kendra I. Lennie
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada.
Matthew J. Vavrek
Royal Ontario Museum, Department of Natural History, 100 Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C6, Canada.
Jason S. Anderson
Department of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N 4N1, Canada.

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1. An ankylosaurian dinosaur from the Cenomanian Dunvegan Formation of northeastern British Columbia, Canada

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