In 1886 a young adventurer scientist by the name of Angelo Heilprin (1853-1907) made his first expedition of many in a short but event filled career. He would later ascend Ixtaccihuatl and Popcatepetl volcanoes in Mexico and was the first scientist to arrive at the city of Saint-Pierre, Martinique after the eruption of Montagne Pelee killed 30,000 in 1902 and would return four years later descended into its crater. He embarked with Robert Peary on his expedition to Greenland in 1891 and led the Peary relief expedition the following year. He was a professor and later curator of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, a painter who exhibited in both the Pennsylvania and Boston academies of fine art, held a chair at Yale and was a founding member of the American Alpine Society. His exploration of the Florida west coast and Lake Okeechobee seems rather mundane today. A drive east along Florida State Highway 20 from Port Charlotte to Labelle by the farms and developments which parallel the channeled Caloosahatchee River and levied Lake Okeechobee belie the wilderness that existed a mere 125 years ago. In the late 19th century the large inland lake was not unknown but earlier attempts to reach it by the Caloosahatchee River ended in impenetrable swamp. Working under the auspices of the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Wagner Free Institute of Science, Heilprin set sail from Cedar Keys, Florida aboard the schooner Rambler with two wealthy Philadelphia backers Joseph Wilcox and Charles Brock, the captain Frank Strobhar and Moses Natteal the cook to access the lake by the Caloosahatchee River by way of the newly dredged canal of the Florida Land Improvement Company. Heilprin’s narrative of the expedition would result in Volume I of the Transactions of the Wagner Free Institute of Philadelphia. At times it reads more like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness than that of the first serious scientific study of the geology and wildlife of the South Florida interior. The descriptions of today’s St. Petersburg coastline and the panther inhabited interior seem alien compared to the present and his commentary on the over-harvesting of alligator in the Florida interior prescient. Of all the observations that he reported upon, none were as unexpected as the evidence of an ancient sea found within the canal banks connecting Lake Okeechobee. Heilprin at once recognized species in this shell bed different from those that presently inhabit Floridian waters and devoted a large portion of his publication on description of the fossils in the soft crumbly limestone that he named the Caloosahatchee Marl (fig. 1).
Figure 1. Endemic gastropods from the Caloosahatchee Formation. All are from Hendry County, Florida.
The fossil fauna found in what we now call the Caloosahatchee Formation succeed that of the underlying Pinecrest Beds. The regression that occurred after the final Pinecrest phase left the Everglades basin well above sea level for several hundred thousand years before being flooded once more by a global warm spell in the Early Pleistocene. The shallow inland lagoon that formed was superheated resulting in a truly tropical environment much different than that found along the Atlantic coast of the time. Although slightly less diverse than the preceding Pinecrest which preserved multiple facies, the Caloosahatchee was considerably richer than the contemporary North Florida Nashua, the Waccamaw of the Carolinas and the northernmost James City deposits. In the Caloosahatchee Formation along with mollusks are found vertebrates, echinoids (fig. 2) and corals. The presence of a large coral component in the white limey marl is typical of the Caloosahatchee. The coral fauna itself is less diverse than that of the corresponding Caribbean however much more abundant in individuals than that of the Pinecrest and consists of Upper Pliocene survivors, Caribbean immigrants and endemics (fig.3).
Figure 2. Echinoids from the Caloosahatchee Formation. Specimens in the middle and on the right have spines preserved.
Figure 3. Corals from the Caloosahatchee Formation. From left to right Dichocoenia caloosahatcheensis Weisbord, 1974, Hendry County, Florida; Dichocoenia eminens Weisbord, 1974, Hendry County, Florida; Placocyathus sp., Collier County, Florida.
In previous posts I have included site pictures however most of my Caloosahatchee collecting has been from FDOT spoil piles outside of the quarries from which the material was mined. Only once have I had the opportunity to collect from a Caloosahatchee quarry and that was the Cochran shell pit in the mid 1980s when I was not concerned so much with photography. It is from that site in which most of my larger Caloosahatchee shells were derived. As with my previous posts, I have included the complete specimen list in my collection from the Caloosahatchee Marl.
Allmon, Warren D; Rosenberg, Gary; Portell, Roger W.; and Schindler, Kevin S. 1993. Diversity of Atlantic Coastal Plain Mollusks since the Pliocene. Science, vol. 260:1626-1629.
Campbell, Lyle. 1975. Check List of Marine Pliocene Mollusks of Eastern North America in Plio-Pleistocene Faunas of the Central Carolina Coastal Plain. Geologic Notes (South Carolina Division of Geology) Vol. 19, No. 3.
Campbell, Lyle. 1993. Pliocene Molluscs from the Yorktown and Chowan River Formations in Virginia. Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 127.
Dall W.H. 1890-1903. Contributions to the Tertiary Fauna of Florida, with Especial Reference to the Miocene Silex-Beds of Tampa and the Pliocene Beds of the Caloosahatchie River, Part I: Pulmonate, Opisthobranchiate and Orthodont Gastropods, Transactions of the Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia 3(1-VI).
Heilprin, Angelo. 1887. Explorations on the west coast of Florida and in the Okeechobee wilderness : with special reference to the geology and zoology of the Floridian peninsula : a narrative of researches undertaken under the auspices of the Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia. Transactions of the Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia v. 1.
Hendricks, Jonathan. 2008. The genus Conus (Mollusca: Neogastropoda) in the Plio-Pleistocene of the southeastern United States, Bulletins of American Paleontology 375.
Olsson, A.A. 1967 (1993 Reprint). Some Tertiary Mollusks from South Florida and the Caribbean, Originally - Bulletins of American Paleontology 54(242), The Paleontological Research Institute Special Publication 19: pages 11-75, 9 plates
Olsson, A.A., and A. Harbison. 1953 (1990 Reprint). Pliocene Mollusca of Southern Florida with Special Reference to Those from North Saint Petersburg, with special chapters on Turridae by W.G. Fargo and Vitinellidae and Fresh-water Mollusks by H.A. Pilsbry, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia Monographs 8, The Shell Museum and Educational Foundation, 457 pages, 65 plates
Olsson, A.A., and R.E. Petit. 1964. Some Neogene Mollusca from Florida and the Carolinas, Bulletins of American Paleontology 47(217): pages 509-574, plates 77-83
Olsson, A.A., and R.E. Petit. 1968 (1993 Reprint). Notes on Siphocypraea, Originally - Special Publication 9, The Paleontological Research Institute Special Publication 19: pages 77-88.
Petuch, Edward J. 1994. Atlas of Florida Fossil Shells (Pliocene and Pleistocene Marine Gastropods). Chicago Spectrum Press.
Petuch, Edward J. 2004. Cenozoic Seas. CRC Press.
Petuch, Edward J. 2007. The Geology of the Everglades and Adjacent Areas. CRC Press.
Portell, Roger W. and Craig W. Oyen. June 2002. Pliocene and Pleistocene Echinoids. Florida Fossil Invertebrates Part 3, 30pp.
Portell, Roger W. and Jeffery G. Agnew. February 2004. Pliocene and Pleistocene Decapod Crustaceans. Florida Fossil Invertebrates Part 4, 29 pp.
Portell, Roger W. and B. Alex Kittle. December 2010. Mollusca, Bermont Formation (Middle Pleistocene). Florida Fossil Invertebrates Part 13, 40 pp.
Weisbord, Norman E. 1974. Late Cenozoic Corals of South Florida. Bulletins of American Paleontology vol. 66, no. 285. 544 pp.
Waller, T.R. 1969. The evolution of the Argopecten gibbus stock (Mollusca: Bivalvia), with emphasis on the Tertiary and Quaternary species of eastern North America. Journal of Paleontology, Memoir 3 (vol. 43, suppl. to No. 5).
Zullo, Victor A. and Portell, Roger W. 1993. Paleobiogeography of the Late Cenozoic Barnacle Fauna of Florida in The Neogene of Florida and Adjacent Regions, Florida Geological Survey Special Publication No. 37.