The dinosaur tracks of Tyrants Aisle: An Upper Cretaceous ichnofauna from Unit 4 of the Wapiti Formation (upper Campanian), Alberta, Canada.PLoS One. 2022; 17(2):e0262824.Plos
The Wapiti Formation of northwest Alberta and northeast British Columbia, Canada, preserves an Upper Cretaceous terrestrial vertebrate fauna that is latitudinally situated between those documented further north in Alaska and those from southern Alberta and the contiguous U.S.A. Therefore, the Wapiti Formation is important for identifying broad patterns in vertebrate ecology, diversity, and distribution across Laramidia during the latest Cretaceous. Tracksites are especially useful as they provide a range of palaeoecological, palaeoenvironmental, and behavioural data that are complementary to the skeletal record. Here, we describe the Tyrants Aisle locality, the largest in-situ tracksite known from the Wapiti Formation. The site occurs in the lower part of Unit 4 of the formation (~72.5 Ma, upper Campanian), exposed along the southern bank of the Redwillow River. More than 100 tracks are documented across at least three distinct track-bearing layers, which were deposited on an alluvial floodplain. Hadrosaurid tracks are most abundant, and are referable to Hadrosauropodus based on track width exceeding track length, broad digits, and rounded or bilobed heel margins. We suggest the hadrosaurid trackmaker was Edmontosaurus regalis based on stratigraphic context. Tyrannosaurids, probable troodontids, possible ornithomimids, and possible azhdarchid pterosaurs represent minor but notable elements of the ichnofauna, as the latter is unknown from skeletal remains within the Wapiti Formation, and all others are poorly represented. Possible social behaviour is inferred for some of the hadrosaurid and small theropod-like trackmakers based on trackway alignment, suitable spacing and consistent preservation. On a broad taxonomic level (i.e., family or above), ichnofaunal compositions indicate that hadrosaurids were palaeoecologically dominant across Laramidia during the late Campanian within both high-and low-latitude deposits, although the role of depositional environment requires further testing.