Jared T. Voris, Darla K. Zelenitsky, Kohei Tanaka & FranÃois Therrien (2017)
Dinosaur eggshells from the lower Maastrichtian St. Mary River Formation of southern Alberta, Canada.
Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences (advance online publication)
North America is known for its rich uppermost Cretaceous record of dinosaur egg remains, although a notable fossil gap exists during the lower Maastrichtian. Here we describe a diverse dinosaur eggshell assemblage from the St. Mary River Formation of southern Alberta that, in conjunction with recently described eggs from the same formation in Montana, helps fill this gap and sheds light on the dinosaur diversity in this poorly-fossiliferous formation. Three theropod types (Continuoolithus cf. C. canadensis, Montanoolithus cf. M. strongorum, and Prismatoolithus cf. P. levis) and one ornithopod (Spheroolithus cf. S. albertensis), are reported from Albertan exposures of the St. Mary River Formation, increasing the ootaxonomic diversity of the formation from two to five ootaxa. The taxonomic composition of the eggshell assemblage is consistent with the dinosaurian fauna known from the St. Mary River Formation based on skeletal remains. Spheroolithus eggshells constitute the majority of identifiable eggshells in our assemblage, a trend also observed in several other Upper Cretaceous formations from North America. Continuoolithus, is shown to be synonymous with Spongioolithus, thus expanding the Maastrichtian geographic range of the ootaxon to include Utah. The St. Mary River eggshell assemblage supports a general trend of increase in eggshell thickness among theropod ootaxa from the uppermost Santonian through the Maastrichtian, which is inferred to reflect an increase in body size among some clades of small theropods through the Upper Cretaceous. Eggshell preservation in the St. Mary River Formation may be related to the semi-arid climatic and environmental conditions that prevailed.