Field surveys of the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation in southwestern North Dakota since 1986 have produced a total of 10124 specimens from 42 vertebrate microsites and an additional 41 dinosaur skulls or partial skeletons or skulls from separate sites representing 61 taxa of vertebrates dominated by fish, dinosaurs, turtles, and crocodilians. Common elements of this diverse fauna occur to within 2.37 m of the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary. The stratigraphically highest fossil in the study is a partial ceratopsian skeleton 1.77 m below the K-T boundary in the basal Fort Union Formation. All dinosaurs that occur at more than two sites also occur at the highest level that yielded more than 500 specimens (8.40 m below the K-T boundary). The fine-grained uppermost 2 m of the Hell Creek is nearly devoid of all fossils, including taxa known to occur in the overlying formation. The absence of channel deposits in this part of the formation may be the reason for the absence of fossil localities. The presence of marine-tolerant taxa suggests that the study area may have been adjacent to a previously unidentified seaway of latest Cretaceous age. Rarefaction analysis indicates no evidence for a decline in vertebrate diversity through the formation or dinosaurian diversity in the 3 m below the K-T boundary. Our results are not compatible with gradual vertebrate extinction at the end of the Cretaceous.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Vertebrate biostratigraphy of the Hell Creek Formation in southwestern North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota|
|Series title||Geological Society of America Special Papers|
|Publisher||Geological Society of America|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|