This study presents evidence of pre-mortem traumatic injury and its sequalae on multiple Edmontosaurus annectens skeletal elements recovered from a largely monodominant Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) bonebed. The sample consists of 3013 specimens excavated and prepared from two quarries, of which 96 elements manifest one or more macroscopic bone abnormalities and 55 specimens display pathology attributable to physical trauma. Evidence of traumatic pathology is strongly associated (P < .05) with body region, occurring disproportionately in the caudal vertebrae. Pre-mortem fractures with subsequent bone remodeling and hypertrophic ossification of caudal neural spines are present principally in the middle and mid-distal regions of the tail, while fractures of the vertebral centra are present primarily in the distal tail region. Other skeletal regions, such as chevrons, phalanges of the manus and ribs display unambiguous evidence of healed trauma, but with less frequency than the tail. These findings, in combination with current understanding of hadrosaurian tail biomechanics, indicate that intervertebral flexibility within the middle and mid-distal region of the tail likely rendered these caudal vertebrae more susceptible to the deleterious effects of repeated mechanical stress and subsequent trauma, potentially accompanying running locomotion and other high-impact herd interactions. Healed fractures within the region are also suggestive of accumulated injuries due to a combination of tail usage in defense and possibly accidental bumping/trampling associated with gregarious behavior.
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Vol. 35 • No. 4