Joseph E. Peterson, Jonathan P. Warnock, Shawn L. Eberhart, Steven R. Clawson & Christopher R. Noto (2017)
New data towards the development of a comprehensive taphonomic framework for the Late Jurassic Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, Central Utah.
The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry (CLDQ) is the densest deposit of Jurassic theropod dinosaurs discovered to date. Unlike typical Jurassic bone deposits, it is dominated by the presence of Allosaurus fragilis. Since excavation began in the 1920s, numerous hypotheses have been put forward to explain the taphonomy of CLDQ, including a predator trap, a drought assemblage, and a poison spring. In an effort to reconcile the various interpretations of the quarry and reach a consensus on the depositional history of CLDQ, new data is required to develop a robust taphonomic framework congruent with all available data. Here we present two new data sets that aid in the development of such a robust taphonomic framework for CLDQ. First, x-ray fluorescence of CLDQ sediments indicate elevated barite and sulfide minerals relative to other sediments from the Morrison Formation in the region, suggesting an ephemeral environment dominated by periods of hypereutrophic conditions during bone accumulation. Second, the degree of abrasion and hydraulic equivalency of small bone fragments dispersed throughout the matrix were analyzed from CLDQ. Results of these analyses suggest that bone fragments are autochthonous or parautochthonous and are derived from bones deposited in the assemblage rather than transported. The variability in abrasion exhibited by the fragments is most parsimoniously explained by local periodic re-working and re-deposition during seasonal fluctuations throughout the duration of the quarry assemblage. Collectively, these data support previous interpretations that the CLDQ represents an attritional assemblage in a poorly-drained overbank deposit where vertebrate remains were introduced post-mortem to an ephemeral pond during flood conditions. Furthermore, while the elevated heavy metals detected at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry are not likely the primary driver for the accumulation of carcasses, they are likely the result of multiple sources; some metals may be derived from post-depositional and diagenetic processes, and others are potentially produced from an abundance of decomposing vertebrate carcasses. These new data help to support the inferred depositional environment of the quarry as an ephemeral pond, and represent a significant step in understanding the taphonomy of the bonebed and Late Jurassic paleoecology in this region.