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Taphonomy and Paleoecology of the Dinosaur Beds of the Jurassic Morrison Formation

  • Peter Dodson (a1), A. K. Behrensmeyer (a2), Robert T. Bakker (a3) and John S. McIntosh (a4)

The Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation has yielded one of the richest dinosaur faunas of the world. Morrison sediments are distributed over more than a million square kilometers in the western United States and represent a mosaic of riverine, lacustrine and floodplain environments developed on a vast alluvial plain nourished by debris from the ancestral Rocky Mountains. Plant productivity must have been reasonably high to support abundant large-bodied herbivores, but the absence of coals, scarcity of small aquatic vertebrates, the abundance of oxidized sediments, and presence of calcretes lead us to believe that water was periodically in short supply. A strongly seasonal climate may have necessitated annual large-scale movements of large herbivores, accounting in part for their remarkably broad and uniform geographic distribution. Dinosaur diversity is lower in the Morrison than in the Late Cretaceous, and taphonomic alteration is higher. Massed accumulations of thousands of bones are characteristic of the Morrison. Morrison dinosaurs were not confined to specific depositional environments but were distributed across the complete spectrum of available habitats, from lakes to dry floodplains; this type of distribution is similar to that of large terrestrial mammals such as elephants and rhinos and is different from that of hippos and crocodiles. Common Morrison taxa were Camarasaurus, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Allosaurus and Stegosaurus; these genera probably constituted a true dinosaur community. Stegosaurus may have been partially segregated from the other genera, and Camptosaurus more strongly so. Camarasaurus and Diplodocus were gregarious, with juveniles and subadults of the former particularly common; Apatosaurus was less abundant and more solitary in its habits. Juveniles and subadults are known for a number of dinosaurs.

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  • ISSN: 0094-8373
  • EISSN: 1938-5331
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