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Sedimentary geology; the neglected foundation of dinosaur paleontology


, : Sedimentary geology; the neglected foundation of dinosaur paleontology. Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America 33(6): 388

Dinosaur paleontology lags behind both mammalian and non-dinosaurian vertebrate paleontology in employing sedimentary geology as a powerful tool for understanding the fossil record. Pursuit of new fossils, trophy specimens, and media attention, all fueled by the sparse dinosaur fossil record, often take precedence over collecting critical sedimentary geologic data relevant to fossil occurrences. Neglect of sedimentary geology in dinosaur paleontology is pervasive across multiple scales of observation and interpretation. At the sedimentary basin or macroscopic scale, data concerning simple litho-, chrono-, magneto-, and even biostratigraphic relations are commonly not collected. As such, evolutionary studies are frequently based on specimens of poorly know absolute or relative age. In addition, determining basin burial history and deformational patterns, important to deciphering thermal and geochemical parameters affecting post-burial changes during fossilization are rarely employed. At the outcrop or mesoscopic scale, lithofacies information including detailed description of lithology and sedimentary structures is often ignored, severely limiting the veracity of depositional environment and sediment transport process interpretations. As such, interpretations of taphonomic history and depositional environment, critical to paleoecological reconstructions and deciphering modes of fossil preservation, are often grossly simplistic and probably wrong. At the microscopic scale, documenting sediment and fossil diagenesis using standard sedimentary petrologic analytical techniques is rare. Consequently, important data for interpreting controls on modes of fossilization and molecular preservation are largely ignored. Studying fossils not collected within any investigative sedimentary geologic framework exacerbates all of these problems Dinosaur paleontology stands at a major cross-roads--it will either mature as a science by recognizing the importance of its foundation of sedimentary geology, or will die a slow scientific death detached from the interpretive power of the sedimentary rock record. Its future will require training a new generation of scientists capable of synergistically bridging aspects of paleobiology with sedimentary geology.

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