- The Paleontological Society
Stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios were measured for carbonate in samples of hadrosaurid tooth enamel and dentine, and gar scale ganoine and dentine from five geologically “contemporaneous” (two-million-year resolution) and geographically distant late Campanian formations (Two Medicine, Dinosaur Park, Judith River, Kaiparowits, and Fruitland) in the Western Interior Basin. In all cases, isotopic offsets were observed between enamel and dentine from the same teeth, with dentine being characterized by higher and more variable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios. Isotopic offsets were also observed between gar ganoine and hadrosaur enamel in all sites analyzed. Both of these observations indicate that diagenetic overprinting of enamel isotope ratios did not entirely obfuscate primary signals. Decreases in carbon and oxygen isotope ratios were observed in hadrosaur enamel from east to west, and overlap in isotope ratios occurred only between two of the sampled sites (Dinosaur Park and Judith River Formations).
The lack of isotopic overlap for enamel among localities could be due to diagenetic resetting of isotope ratios such that they reflect local groundwater effects rather than primary biogenic inputs. However, the large range in carbon isotope ratios, the consistent taxonomic offsets for enamel/ ganoine data, and comparisons of enamel-dentine data from the same teeth all suggest that diagenesis is not the lone driver of the signal. In the absence of major alteration, the mostly likely explanation for the isotopic patterns observed is that hadrosaurids from the targeted formations were eating plants and drinking waters with distinct isotopic ratios. One implication of this reconstruction is that hadrosaurids in the Late Cretaceous of the Western Interior did not migrate to an extent that would obscure local isotopic signatures.