Why Most Fossils Are Incomplete

From MinuteEarth.

In 1990, fossil collectors in South Dakota stumbled across a dinosaur that turned out to be a really big deal. Not just because it was a T. rex – basically the most popular dino out there – or because it ended up in Chicago’s famous Field Museum… but because of the number of bones it had.

To learn more about this topic, start your googling with these keywords:
– Taphonomy: the branch of paleontology that deals with the processes of fossilization
– Debris flow: a moving mass of loose mud, sand, soil, rock, water and air that travels down a slope under the influence of gravity

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David A. (2013). Evidence for taphonomic size bias in the Dinosaur Park Formation (Campanian, Alberta), a model Mesozoic terrestrial alluvial‐paralic system. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 372(), 108–122. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.06.027

Cashmore, D. D., & Butler, R. J. (2019). Skeletal completeness of the non‐avian theropod dinosaur fossil record. Palaeontology, 62(6), 951-981. https://doi.org/10.1111/pala.12436

Cashmore, D. D., Mannion, P. D., Upchurch, P., & Butler, R. J. (2020). Ten more years of discovery: revisiting the quality of the sauropodomorph dinosaur fossil record. Palaeontology, 63(6), 951-978. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6hdr7sqxb

Dean, C. D., Mannion, P. D., & Butler, R. J. (2016). Preservational bias controls the fossil record of pterosaurs. Palaeontology, 59(2), 225-247. https://doi.org/10.1111/pala.12225

Mannion, P. D., & Upchurch, P. (2010). Completeness metrics and the quality of the sauropodomorph fossil record through geological and historical time. Paleobiology, 36(2), 283-302. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/40792289