Precipitation Helping Drive Distribution

The finding, published April 2 in the journal Geosciences, discusses the distribution of hadrosaurids and ceratopsids — the megaherbivores of the Late Cretaceous Period, 100.5 million to 66 million years ago.

The work can help scientists project what the Arctic region might look like in the years ahead if the climate turns similarly warm and wet.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute geology professor Paul McCarthy, who is also chair of the UAF Department of Geosciences, is co-author of the research paper written by Anthony Fiorillo of Southern Methodist University in Texas. McCarthy has been studying the region’s ancient past for many years.

Fossilized plants and animals and ancient footprints get most of the public attention, but fossil soil has equally important information to offer through its preserved features, mineral composition and chemical makeup.

Ceratopsids, a family with beaks and horns, preferred a milder and drier climate but never became dominant in percentage over the hadrosaurids in the three formations. Triceratops is perhaps the best known ceratopsid, at a length of about 25 to 30 feet and weighing 4.5 to 5.5 tons.

The finding for greater influence of precipitation than temperature was based in part on prior research that looked at dinosaur teeth from the Prince Creek Formation, including teeth of hadrosaurids and ceratopsids. That study was led by Celina A. Suarez of the University of Arkansas and included work by McCarthy.

Results from that dental study, authors of the new paper write, suggest that ceratopsids preferred the drier, better-drained regions of the Late Cretaceous Arctic landscape and that hadrosaurids preferred wetter regions of the landscape.

Others involved in the Geosciences paper include Yoshitsugu Kobayashi of the Hokkaido University Museum at Hokkaido University in Japan and Marina B. Suarez of the University of Kansas.



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