Original Paper

Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments

, Volume 93, Issue 3, pp 317-326

First online:

Did fire play a role in formation of dinosaur-rich deposits? An example from the Late Cretaceous of Canada

  • Sarah A. E. BrownAffiliated withDepartment of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London Email author 
  • , Margaret E. CollinsonAffiliated withDepartment of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London
  • , Andrew C. ScottAffiliated withDepartment of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London

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The mid-late Campanian Dinosaur Park Formation outcropping within Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada, contains multiple dinosaur deposits occurring as bone beds, articulated skeletons, isolated bones and microvertebrate deposits. Due to the abundance of dinosaur deposits, the exposure of Cretaceous sediments, and the presence of charcoal, this locality acts as a good test site for investigating the implications of fire-impacted landscapes for the formation of vertebrate deposits. Despite prior palaeontological and geological research being carried out into this Formation, the presence of charcoal in vertebrate deposits has never previously been recorded. This study compares charcoal content in vertebrate deposits (two bone beds, two beds with articulated skeletons), 6 sediment samples with isolated bones and 23 sediments with no bone. Charcoal is more abundant in the vertebrate deposits than in sediments containing isolated bones or no bones, including those in identical lithofacies. This evidence suggests that flooding events following wildfires are likely to have played a role in the formation of some vertebrate deposits.


Bone bed Vertebrate deposit Charcoal Flooding Wildfire Ceratopsian