Andean Geology | 2019
Taphonomic analysis of saurischian dinosaurs from the Plottier Formation (Upper Cretaceous), Mendoza, Argentina
The uppermost Cretaceous continental deposits of the Neuquen Basin (west-central Argentina) have yielded a high diversity vertebrate assemblage, including numerous dinosaur species. The Neuquen Group is the richest unit in remains of dinosaur of the basin and comprises the Rio Limay, the Rio Neuquen and the Rio Colorado subgroups. In this group, there is abundance of isolated, disarticulated or partially articulated sauropods and theropods. However, little is known about the taphonomic history of fossil assemblages. In this study, dinosaur remains from the Plottier Formation (late Coniacian-early Santonian) found in the Cerro Guillermo area in southern Mendoza are examined. The investigation of fossil occurrences within the study area revealed the existence of different taphonomic modes, from isolated bones until partially articulated skeletons preserved in deposits of floodplain and fluvial channel settings. SEM-EDS analysis showed the substitution of hydroxyapatite by francolite in the bone microstructure. The presence of fluorine-in one of the cases-suggested a link between the elemental composition and depositional environments: floodplain and fluvial channel. The survey of the vertebrate accumulation types and their sedimentary context allowed documenting a wide range of processes responsible for their genesis, operating within a meandering fluvial environment. This contribution represents a holistic approach about taphonomic history of Cretaceous dinosaurs for assessing the differential preservation of fossil assemblages in fluvial environments.