Formation binning: a new method for increased temporal resolution in regional studies, applied to the Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossil record of North America

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Authors

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Perot Museum of Nature & Science; Dallas TX USA

Abstract

The advent of palaeontological occurrence databases has allowed for detailed reconstruction and analyses of species richness through deep time. While a substantial literature has evolved ensuring that taxa are fairly counted within and between different time periods, how time itself is divided has received less attention. Stage‐level or equal‐interval age bins have frequently been used for regional and global studies in vertebrate palaeontology. However, when assessing diversity at a regional scale, these resolutions can prove inappropriate with the available data. Herein, we propose a new method of binning geological time for regional studies that intrinsically incorporates the chronostratigraphic heterogeneity of different rock formations to generate unique stratigraphic bins. We use this method to investigate the diversity dynamics of dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of the Western Interior of North America prior to the Cretaceous–Palaeogene mass extinction. Increased resolution through formation binning pinpoints the Maastrichtian diversity decline to between 68 and 66 Ma, coinciding with the retreat of the Western Interior Seaway. Diversity curves are shown to exhibit volatile patterns using different binning methods, supporting claims that heterogeneous biases in this time‐frame affect the pre‐extinction palaeobiological record. We also show that the apparent high endemicity of dinosaurs in the Campanian is a result of non‐contemporaneous geological units within large time bins. This study helps to illustrate the utility of high‐resolution, regional studies to supplement our understanding of factors governing global diversity in deep time and ultimately how geology is inherently tied to our understanding of past changes in species richness.

Details

Original languageEnglish
JournalPalaeontology
Early online date11 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • dinosaur, time bin, temporal resolution, North America, Late Cretaceous, formation