Deep-time biodiversity patterns and the dinosaurian fossil record of the Late Cretaceous Western Interior, North America

Susannah Maidment, Christopher Dean, Robert Mansergh, Richard Butler

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In order for palaeontological data to be informative to ecologists seeking to understand the causes of today’s diversity patterns, palaeontologists must demonstrate that actual biodiversity patterns are preserved in our reconstructions of past ecosystems. During the Late Cretaceous, North America was divided into two landmasses, Laramidia and Appalachia. Previous work has suggested strong faunal provinciality on Laramidia at this time, but these arguments are almost entirely qualitative. We quantitatively investigated faunal provinciality in ceratopsid and hadrosaurid dinosaurs using a biogeographic network approach and investigated sampling biases by examining correlations between dinosaur occurrences and collections. We carried out a model-fitting approach using generalized least-squares regression to investigate the sources of sampling bias we identified. We find that while the raw data strongly support faunal provinciality, this result is driven by sampling bias. The data quality of ceratopsids and hadrosaurids is currently too poor to enable fair tests of provincialism, even in this intensively sampled region, which probably represents the best-known Late Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. To accurately reconstruct biodiversity patterns in deep time, future work should focus on smaller scale, higher resolution case studies in which the effects of sampling bias can be better controlled.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20210692
JournalRoyal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Issue number1953
Early online date23 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
R.J.B. was funded by European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 637483 during the course of this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s).


  • faunal provincialism
  • endemicity
  • Laramidia
  • sampling bias
  • Ceratopsidae
  • Hadrosauridae


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