Lance Formation

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Lance Formation
Stratigraphic range: Maastrichtian, 69–66Ma
Lance Fm.jpg
Badlands in the Lance Formation along Cow Creek near the type locality. Niobrara County, Wyoming
Type Sedimentary
Underlies Fort Union Formation
Overlies Meeteetse Formation
Thickness up to 600 metres (1,970 ft)
Primary Sandstone, siltstone, shale
Region  Wyoming
Country  United States
Type section
Named for Lance Creek, Wyoming

The Lance (Creek) Formation is a division of Late Cretaceous (dating to about 69 - 66 Ma) rocks in the western United States. Named after Lance Creek, Wyoming, the microvertebrate fossils and dinosaurs represent important components of the latest Mesozoic vertebrate faunas. The Lance Formation is Late Maastrichtian in age (Lancian land mammal age), and shares much fauna with the Hell Creek Formation of Montana and North Dakota, the Frenchman Formation of southwest Saskatchewan, and the lower part of the Scollard Formation of Alberta.

The Lance Formation occurs above the Baculites clinolobatus ammonite marine zone in Wyoming, the top of which has been dated to about 69 million years ago, and extends to the K-Pg boundary, 66 million years ago. However, the characteristic land vertebrate fauna of the Lancian age (which take its name from this formation) is only found in the upper strata of the Lance, roughly corresponding to the thinner equivalent formations such as the Hell Creek Formation, the base of which has been estimated at 66.8 million years old.[1]


The formation is described by W.G. Pierce as thick-bedded, buff-colored sandstone, and drab to green shale. It is Upper Cretaceous in age.[2]

The formation varies in thickness from about 90m (300 feet) in North Dakota, to almost 600m (2,000 feet) in parts of Wyoming.

Depositional Environment[edit]

The Lance Formation was laid down by streams, on a coastal plain along the edge of the Western Interior Seaway. The climate was subtropical; there was no cold season and probably ample precipitation.


At least tens of thousands of Late Cretaceous vertebrate remains have been recovered from the Lance Formation. Fossils ranging from microscopic elements to extensive bonebeds, with nearly complete, sometimes articulated dinosaur skeletons, have been found. Most other animals known from the formation are freshwater animals, and some are exclusively freshwater forms (for instance, frogs and salamanders). However, marine fossils are also found in the formation, suggesting that the sea was nearby. The bird fauna is mainly composed of orders still existing today.


UCMP 143274 (Caenagnathidae?)[3][4]

Color key
Taxon Reclassified taxon Taxon falsely reported as present Dubious taxon or junior synonym Ichnotaxon Ootaxon Morphotaxon
Uncertain or tentative taxa are in small text; crossed out taxa are discredited.


Birds reported from the Lance Formation
Genus Species Location Stratigraphic Position Material Notes Images


A. retusus

Partial coracoid

Reclassified as Palintropus retusus


C. major

Partial coracoid

A possible charadriiform


C. maxima

Partial coracoid

A charadriiform, also present in the Hell Creek Formation

C. petra

Partial coracoid

Possibly referable to the genus Lamarqueavis.[5]

C. rara

Partial coracoid

A charadriiform, also present in the Frenchman Formation.

C. retusa

Partial coracoid

Reclassified as Palintropus retusus


"C." minima

Partial coracoid

A charadriiformes previously referred to Cimolopteryx but belonging to a new genus (or possibly Lamarqueavis[5]). Also present in the Hell Creek Formation


G. augustus

Partial humerus

A possible charadriiform


I.? sp.

Partial sacrum

An ichthyornithiform


L. estesi

Partial tarsometatarsus

A procellariiform


"L." pterygius

Partial carpometacarpus

A neoavian, formerly classified as Lonchodytes


"P." vetus

Two partial tibiotarsi

A bird similar to gruids, idiornithids and presbyornithids. Formerly classified as Palaeotringa


P. retusus

Partial coracoid

A basal ornithuromorph belonging to Ambiortiformes.


P. skutchi

"Quadrate and postcranial elements."[6]

An ornithurine, possibly a hesperornithiform

Presbyornithidae indet.


Three partial shoulder blades and a partial breastbone

A presbyornithid[7]


T. clemensi

Partial humerus

A possible charadriiform or pelecaniform

Unnamed enantiornithine


Partial MTII and pedal phalanges

An enantiornithine, previously referred to "Ornithomimus" minutus[8]

Unnamed neornithine


Two fragmentary neck vertebrae

A neornithine[7]

Unnamed phalacrocoracid



A phalacrocoracid[7]

Other Coelurosaurs[edit]

Misc Coelurosaurs of the Lance Formation
Genus Species Location Stratigraphic Position Material Notes Images


A. amplus

Teeth, type specimen

Nomina dubia probably synonymous with Tyrannosaurus rex


A. cristatus

Teeth, type specimen



A dromaeosaurid


D. cristatus


Junior synonym of Troodon formosus, actually from the Judith River Formation



Tyrannosaur teeth previously referred to Dryptosaurus


D. imperiosus

Type specimen

Junior synonym of Tyrannosaurus rex


M. gigas

Neck vertebrae, type specimen

Nomen dubium probably synonymous with Tyrannosaurus rex



An ornithomimid

O. sedens

Reclassified as Struthiomimus sedens

"O." minutus

Misclassified as the former Ornithomimus species now recognized as an alvarezsaurid from the Denver Basin, material actually belonged to an enantiornithine


P. caperatus

Teeth, type specimen

A troodontid


P. bakkeri

Teeth, type specimen

A troodontid


R. cf. gilmorei



R.? isosceles



S. inequalis


Misclassified as Troodon inequalis, from the Dinosaur Park Formation


S. sedens

"Sacrum and fragmentary illium",[10] type specimen

An ornithomimid


T. bakkeri

Reclassified as Pectinodon bakkeri

T. formosus

Sometimes considered a synonym of T. bakkeri, actually from the Dinosaur Park, Judith River, Oldman and Two Medicine Formations


T. rex

Several partial specimens and teeth

A tyrannosaurid, also found in the Denver, Ferris, Frenchman, Hell Creek, Javelina, Kirtland, Livingston, McRae, North Horn, Scollard, Tornillo, and Willow Creek Formations.

Unnamed dromaeosaurid

Unnamed (Ostrom, 1969)


A dromaeosaurid

Unnamed troodontid

Unnamed (Currie, Rigby and Sloan, 1990)


A troodontid



Ankylosaurs of the Lance Formation
Genus Species Location Stratigraphic Position Abundance Notes Images


A. magniventris

An ankylosaurid


D. schlessmani

Reclassified as Edmontonia schlessmani[11]


E. rugosidens

Material classified as E. schlessmani is sometimes considered to be conspecific with E. rugosidens[11]

E. schlessmani[12]

A nodosaurid


Marginocephalians reported from the Lance Formation
Genus Species Location Stratigraphic Position Material Notes Images


A. sylvestris

"Partial sacrum and pelvis."[13]

A dubious ceratopsid probably synonymous with Triceratops


D. hatcheri

Junior synonym of Nedoceratops hatcheri


L. gracilis

A ceratopsian


N. hatcheri

"[One] skull."[13]

A ceratopsid possibly synonymous with Triceratops[14]


P. wyomingensis

A pachycephalosaur


"P." latus


A dubious pachycephalosaur, previously classified as the ankylosaur Palaeoscincus


S. spinifer

A pachycephalosaur possibly synonymous with Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis[16]


T. latus

A ceratopsid possibly synonymous with Triceratops.[14] Also present in the Frenchman and Hell Creek Formations.


T. horridus

"Partial skull and skeleton."[13]

A ceratopsid, also found in the Evanston, Frenchman, Kirtland, Hell Creek, Laramie, and Scollard Formations.

T. ingens

Junior synonym of T. horridus

T. sulcatus

"Fragmentary skull."[13]

A nomen dubium


Ornithopods of the Lance Formation
Genus Species Location Stratigraphic Position Abundance Notes Images


A. annectens

Reclassified as Edmontosaurus annectens


A. longiceps

A dubious hadrosaurid, probably synonymous with Edmontosaurus annectens


C. annectens

Reclassified as Edmontosaurus annectens


E. annectens

A hadrosaurid


T. neglectus

A thescelosaurid.[17] Also found in the Frenchman, Hell Creek, Laramie and Scollard Formations.


T. occidentalis

A dubious hadrosaurid


T. longiceps

Reclassified as Anatotitan longiceps, possibly synonymous with Edmontosaurus annectens

Other vertebrates[edit]

Other land vertebrates include pterosaurs (e.g. cf. Azhdarcho), crocodiles, champsosaurs, lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs and salamanders.

Remains of fishes and mammals have also been found in the Lance Formation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lehman, T. M., Mcdowell, F. W., & Connelly, J. N. (2006). First isotopic (U-Pb) age for the Late Cretaceous Alamosaurus vertebrate fauna of West Texas, and its significance as a link between two faunal provinces. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 26(4), 922-928.
  2. ^ Pierce, W.G., 1997, Geologic map of the Cody 1 degree x 2 degrees quadrangle, northwestern Wyoming: U.S. Geological Survey, Miscellaneous Geologic Investigations Map I-2500, scale 1:250000.
  3. ^ Stidham, 1998
  4. ^ Dyke, GJ; Mayr, G. (1999). "Did parrots exist in the Cretaceous period?". Nature 399 (6734): 317–318. doi:10.1038/20583.
  5. ^ a b Federico L. Agnolin (2010). "An avian coracoid from the Upper Cretaceous of Patagonia, Argentina". Stvdia Geologica Salmanticensia 46 (2): 99–119. 
  6. ^ "Table 11.1," in Weishampel, et al. (2004). Page 215.
  7. ^ a b c Hope, 2002
  8. ^ Chiappe, L. M., and Walker, C. A. (2002) Skeletal morphology and systematics of the Cretaceous Euenantiornithes (Ornithothoraces: Enantiornithes): In: Mesozoic Birds, above the heads of Dinosaurs, University of California Press, 240-267.
  9. ^ "Table 9.1," in Weishampel, et al. (2004). Page 186.
  10. ^ "Table 6.1," in Weishampel, et al. (2004). Page 139.
  11. ^ a b Vickaryous, M.K., Maryańska, T., and Weishampel, D.B., (2004). "Ankylosauria". In Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P., and Osmólska, H. (eds.). The Dinosauria (Second Edition). University of California Press. pp. 363–392. ISBN 0-520-24209-2. 
  12. ^ Bakker, R.T. (1988). Review of the Late Cretaceous nodosauroid Dinosauria: Denversaurus schlessmani, a new armor-plated dinosaur from the Latest Cretaceous of South Dakota, the last survivor of the nodosaurians, with comments on Stegosaur-Nodosaur relationships. Hunteria 1(3):1-23.(1988).
  13. ^ a b c d "Table 23.1," in Weishampel, et al. (2004). Page 496.
  14. ^ a b Scannella, J. and Horner, J.R. (2010). "Torosaurus Marsh, 1891, is Triceratops Marsh, 1889 (Ceratopsidae: Chasmosaurinae): synonymy through ontogeny." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 30(4): 1157 - 1168. doi:10.1080/02724634.2010.483632
  15. ^ "Table 17.1," in Weishampel, et al. (2004). Page 368.
  16. ^ Horner J.R. and Goodwin, M.B. (2009). "Extreme cranial ontogeny in the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Pachycephalosaurus." PLoS ONE, 4(10): e7626. Online full text
  17. ^ Boyd, Clint A.; Brown, Caleb M.; Scheetz, Rodney D.; and Clarke, Julia A. (2009). "Taxonomic revision of the basal neornithischian taxa Thescelosaurus and Bugenasaura". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29 (3): 758–770. doi:10.1671/039.029.0328. 

External links[edit]