Smith et al. dataset from New records of theropods from the latest Cretaceous of New Jersey and the Maastrichtian Appalachian fauna

2019-11-01T11:38:54Z (GMT) by Chase Doran Brownstein
The faunal changes that occurred in the few million years before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction are of much interest to vertebrate palaeontologists. Western North America preserves arguably the best fossil record from this time, whereas terrestrial vertebrate fossils from the eastern portion of the continent are usually limited to isolated, eroded postcranial remains. Examination of fragmentary specimens from the American east, which was isolated for the majority of the Cretaceous as the landmass Appalachia, is therefore important for better understanding dinosaur diversity at the end of the Mesozoic. Here, I report on two theropod teeth from the Mount Laurel Formation, a lower-middle Maastrichtian unit from northeastern North America. One of these preserves in fine-detail the structure of the outer enamel and resembles the dentition of the tyrannosauroid Dryptosaurus aquilunguis among latest Cretaceous forms in being heavily mediolaterally compressed and showing many moderately developed enamel crenulations. Along with previously reported tyrannosauroid material from the Mt Laurel and overlying Cretaceous units, this fossil supports the presence of non-tyrannosaurid tyrannosauroids in the Campanian–Maastrichtian of eastern North America and provides support for the notion that the area was still home to relictual vertebrates through the end of the Mesozoic. The other tooth is assignable to a dromaeosaurid and represents both the youngest occurrence of a non-avian maniraptoran in eastern North America and the first from the Maastrichtian reported east of the Mississippi. This tooth, which belonged to a 3–4 m dromaeosaurid based on size comparisons with the teeth of taxa for which skeletons are known, increases the diversity of the Maastrichtian dinosaur fauna of Appalachia. Along with previously reported dromaeosaurid teeth, the Mt Laurel specimen supports the presence of mid-sized to large dromaeosaurids in eastern North America throughout the Cretaceous.