Osteohistological and Taphonomic Life-History Assessment of Edmontosaurus annectens (Ornithischia: Hadrosauridae) from the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Ruth Mason Dinosaur Quarry, South Dakota, United States, with Implication for Ontogenetic Segregation Between Juvenile and Adult Hadrosaurids

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The Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Ruth Mason Dinosaur Quarry (RMDQ) represents a monodominant Edmontosaurus annectens bonebed from the Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota and has been determined as a catastrophic death assemblage likely belonging to a single population, providing an ideal sample to investigate hadrosaurid growth and population dynamics. For this study, size-frequency distributions were constructed from linear measurements of long bones (humeri, femora, tibiae) from RMDQ that revealed five relatively distinct size classes along a generally right-skewed distribution, which is consistent with a catastrophic assemblage. To test the relationship between morphological size ranges and ontogenetic age classes, subsets from each size-frequency peak were transversely thin-sectioned at mid-diaphysis to conduct an ontogenetic age assessment based on growth marks and observations of the bone microstructure. When combining these independent datasets, growth marks aligned with size-frequency peaks, with the exclusion of the overlapping subadult-adult size range, indicating a strong size-age relationship in early ontogeny. A growth curve analysis of tibiae indicated that E. annectens exhibited a similar growth trajectory to the Campanian hadrosaurid Maiasaura, although attaining a much larger asymptotic body size by about 9 years of age, further suggesting that the clade as a whole may have inherited a similar growth strategy. This rich new dataset for E. annectens provides new perspectives on other hypotheses of hadrosaurid life history. When the RMDQ population was compared with size distributions from other hadrosaurid bonebed assemblages, juveniles (categorized as ages one and two) were either completely absent from or heavily underrepresented in the samples, providing support for the hypothesized segregation between juvenile and adult hadrosaurids. Osteohistological comparison with material from polar and temperate populations of Edmontosaurus revealed that previous conclusions correlating osteohistological growth patterns with the strength of environmental stressors were a result of sampling non-overlapping ontogenetic growth stages.




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