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The St. Mary River Formation of northwestern Montana consists of a thick packet of terrestrial sediments sandwiched between a marine transgression (producing the Bearpaw Sea) that virtually extinguished the coastal plain of the contemporary Northern Rockies region 68 million years ago and the great dinosaurian demise 65 million years ago. From 1986 to 1991, Dave Weishampel discovered several St. Mary River localities (including several bonebeds and a dinosaur nesting horizon, whose fauna consists of ornithomimid, tyrannosaurid, and dromaeosaurid theropods, several hadrosaurid species, small and large neoceratopsians, rare ankylosaurs, marsupial, multituberculate, and eutherian mammals, squamates, and amphibians. These animals constitute the survivors of the Bearpaw transgression and hence represent the colonists returning to the renewed terrestrial habitats that came with the Bearpaw regression. Ultimately, the St. Mary River project speaks to the relationship between habitat bottlenecks, ecological crises, and changes in speciation and extinction dynamics among Cretaceous vertebrates. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation.

One of our quarries (BFD) in the St. Mary River Formation.


The abundant and well preserved material recovered from BFD includes a partial growth series of juveniles through adults of a hadrosaurid ornithopod.



Since 1921, the Gobi Desert of southern Mongolia has produced a treasure trove of Cretaceous dinosaurs, crocodylomorphs, squamates, mammals, and amphibians. In 1993, as part of the Joint Expeditions of the Mongolian Academy of Science - Hayashibara Museum of Natural Sciences, (Okayama, Japan), Dave Weishampel traveled across the Gobi, amassing an amazing amount of new vertebrate material, including an oviraptorid nest that preserves nearly complete, full-term embryos. Several projects have grown from the continuing Joint Expeditions, including work on the life-history significance of a nest of 15 Protoceratops hatchlings, the osteology and systematic affinities of Avimimus, and a review of the ornithopods from the Gobi. This research is funded by the Hayashibara Corporation.

The glorious cliffs of the Baruungoyot Formation in Ömnögov', Mongolia, from which considerable Late Cretaceous vertebrates have been collected.


Getting gas and talking to local experts at Dalanzadgad on the way to the Protoceratops bonanza at Tugrugiin Shireh.


Romania (Transylvania)

The Transylvanian region of western Romania has produced a little-known, but important dinosaur fauna. Originally discovered and studied by Franz Baron Nopcsa, these dinosaurs have come to play a large part in our understanding of the life-history strategies, evolutionary dynamics, and insular biogeography of Europe during the Late Cretaceous. Dave Weishampel and Coralia-Maria Jianu (Muzeul Civilizatiei Dacice si Romane, Deva, Romania) are currently conducting systematic, paleoecologic, heterochronic, and biogeographic research on these Transylvanian dinosaurs. This research has been funded by the National Geographic Society, the National Science Formation, the National Research Council, the Dinosaur Society, the Jurassic Foundation, and the Paleontological Society International Research Program.

Allied with this work is biographic research on Franz Baron Nopcsa (1877 1933) who, in addition to his studies of the dinosaurs of Transylvania, was the one of the principal paleobiological researchers in central Europe, and the founder of paleophysiology. Nopcsa's interests include such paleobiological issues as identification of sexual dimorphism, reconstruction of soft tissues in extinct tetrapods (especially dinosaurs), bone histology and its physiological implications, neo Lamarckian inheritance, and the integration of biogeography and continental drift. This project has been funded by the National Science Foundation.

Working the Lower Quarry in the Sânpetru Formation of western Romania.


Franz Baron Nopcsa (1877-1933). Portrait by DW.




New dinosaur localities in Europe are very rare, but in 2000 a spectacular site at Iharkút in the Transdanubian Central Range of western Hungary, was discovered by Attila Ösi, then a student at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. Subsequently, Attila Ösi teamed up with Dave Weishampel and Coralia-Maria Jianu to investigate the Iharkút fauna. Discoveries of dinosaurs so far include a new genus and species of nodosaurid ankylosaur, a new rhabdodontid ornithopod, several theropods, including several dromaeosaurids and an enantiornithine bird. The other elements of the fauna include a new azhdarchid, a new small, herbivorous crocodylomorph, a new large swimming varanid, turtles, and amphibians.

Like that of Transylvania, the Iharkút fauna adds significant information to our understanding of the Late Cretaceous terrestrial biota of Europe, as well as the phylogenetic and biogeographic relationships of its members. This research has been funded by the National Geographic Society and the Hungarian National Science Foundation.

The new herbivorous crocodylomorph from Iharkút, in dorsal view. Photograph courtesy of Attila Ösi.


The quarry at Iharkút, with the crew busy excavating additional nodosaurid specimens.

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