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Dinosaur fossils in Early Cretaceous of Lujiatun, China--volcanic Pompeii or floods?

Ben Creisler

A new online paper:

Christopher S. Rogers, David W.E. Hone, Maria E. McNamara, Qi Zhao,
Patrick J. Orr, Stuart L. Kearns & Michael J. Benton (2015)
The Chinese Pompeii? Death and destruction of dinosaurs in the Early
Cretaceous of Lujiatun, NE China.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (advance online publication)


We present a systematic description of the sedimentology of the Lujiatun Unit.
Our data show multiple fossiliferous horizons within the Lujiatun Unit.
Most Lujiatun fossils originate from remobilised volcaniclastic sediments.
Burial events are not necessarily associated with volcanic eruptions.
Our results provide a basis for understanding the taphonomy of Lujiatun fossils.


The Lujiatun Unit (Yixian Formation) yields some of the most
spectacular vertebrate fossils of the Jehol Group (Lower Cretaceous)
of NE China. Specimens are preserved both articulated and
three-dimensional, unlike the majority of Jehol fossils, which are
near two-dimensional compression fossils. The site has been referred
to as the ‘Chinese Pompeii’ because the dinosaurs and other animals
were assumed to have been killed and buried by hot, airborne volcanic
debris and ash in a single event; this has yet to be confirmed. Field
and laboratory evidence for the sedimentological context of the
fossils from the Lujiatun Unit is described in detail, and used to
assess whether the fossil remains correspond to a single depositional
event and whether this event was the direct result of volcanic
activity. Fossils of the Lujiatun Unit occur in several horizons of
volcaniclastic sediments that represent multiple depositional events.
Petrological analysis shows that the fossil-bearing sediments were
remobilised and deposited by water. The Lujiatun dinosaurs and other
fossils were therefore not killed by a single airborne volcanic ash,
but in multiple flood events with a high load of volcaniclastic