Why did the Asian lambeosaurine dinosaurs survive up to the very end of the Mesozoic, whereas their North American close cousins already went extinct in the Campanian?
Among dinosaurs, the duck-billed hadrosaurs occupy a special place in the public’s hearts perhaps for their somewhat goofy appearance. These highly successful herbivores are in fact key animals to explain mechanisms of evolution and ecology during the Cretaceous. Hadrosaurs spread worldwide with two different aspects: one group had elaborate skull crests, such as Olorotitan, others had a flat skull such as Edmontosaurus. Although the more famous American species such as Parasaurolophus and Corythosaurus went extinct well before the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous, the Asian species survived until the very end. They represent the best case study to understand the final forms of the evolution of these giant “duck-cows” thanks to a great amount of bones and teeth, from juvenile forms to adults. My project aims to study a new species of Chinese flat-headed dinosaur, and describe accumulations of several individuals from Russia and China. These analyses will more accurately document hadrosaur fauna of Asia, revealing information about growth, population dynamics, evolution, and dispersal pathways between northeastern Asian and northwestern American duck-bill dinosaurs. Finally, studying the microscopic wear pattern and striations in their teeth has the potential to reveal new characteristics of hadrosaur chewing action, their most powerful evolutionary weapon of these organisms, which likely were the most successful herbivores ever, in the Mesozoic struggle for life.
Belgium (Iguanodon bernissartensis), Montana (Undescribed hadrosaur), Russia and China (Hadrosaurs)
Core-drilling machine, stone-cutting saw, polarized microscope, CT-scans