Vertebrate paleontology of the Cloverly Formation (Lower Cretaceous), II: Paleoecology

<p>Vertebrate microfossil assemblages in terrestrial formations are a promising source of data on the structure of fossil metacommunities. However, the degree to which these deposits capture true, metacommunity-level samples is unknown. Individual deposits may be biased in ways that limit their utility for intra- and inter-formation comparisons. This study describes the composition of ten vertebrate microfossil assemblages collected from the Lower Cretaceous Cloverly Formation in Montana and Wyoming, U.S.A., and evaluates whether the assemblages are sufficiently similar to suggest the presence of a single Cloverly metacommunity, or ‘paleocommunity type.’ The assemblages appear to be biased by factors related to the preferential incorporation and preservation of different taxa and skeletal element types, which compound with decreasing locality sample size. Less productive localities lack whole taxonomic groups, especially small, fully terrestrial vertebrates. Only the two vertebrate microfossil bonebeds approach the known formation richness. High individual tooth counts overrepresent particular species, especially the crocodylians. Despite these biases, the multiple assemblages nevertheless yield statistically similar taxon abundance rank orders, suggesting the presence of a single, formation-wide paleo-metacommunity, which bears resemblance to a viable metacommunity. The aggregate assemblage exhibits an ‘Eltonian pyramid’ trophic hierarchy for both terrestrial and aquatic taxa. Comparing the multiple assemblages synoptically also reveals possible landscape-scale abundance patterns for particular species. Taken together, microvertebrate assemblages offer insight into regional paleo-metacommunities and provide samples for inter-formational comparisons at this level.</p> <p>SUPPLEMENTAL DATA—Supplemental materials are available for this article for free at <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/UJVP" target="_blank">www.tandfonline.com/UJVP</a></p> <p>Citation for this article: Carrano, M. T., M. P. J. Oreska, and R. Lockwood. 2016. Vertebrate paleontology of the Cloverly Formation (Lower Cretaceous), II: Paleoecology. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2015.1071265. </p>