cowsharks

Land Animals Found In Marine Environments

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This past weekend, while looking through my collection for some Rhino teeth/material I found along Calvert Cliffs some years ago, it got me thinking about why we find fossilized remains of some land animals in what are otherwise marine environments. From the fossil sites I collect at, I have found several Peccary (pig) specimens (mostly teeth and a few bones and jaw fragments), a possible deer tooth, and the aformentioned Rhino material (teeth). I know others have found horse teeth along Calvert Cliffs as well. Is it safe to assume that the reason for finding specimens from these (and other) land animals in marine environments is because they lived, fed, or travelled near the water? Or does it have to do with the shifting of the various marine sediments over time being deposited over the top of (or below) other sediments where the land animals had died? Or maybe there are other explanations?

Just curious.

Daryl.

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Cant say if it is your case,but in Fla.the water has changed for millions of years.That is why you can Meg. teeth in a layer and horse and rhino things close apart.

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Don't know about there but...

Here in Kansas, there have been dinosaur remains found, even though it was the middle of an ocean. The dino floated out, (dead) sunk, and then fossilized.

Edited by KansasFossilHunter

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I hunt in NJ (where I live) . During the Cretaceous it was under water and though the are very rare we still find terrestrial remain. I live only 2 miles from the famous Hadrosaur site in Haddonfield and I was told these remains were "bloat and float" remains. An animal dies on land, gets washed into the water, the gases of decomposition cause it to float and currents carry it out to sea, where predation takes place and the remains sink to the bottom

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... remains were "bloat and float" ...

"Bloat and Float", that's somewhat funny. Hadn't heard that one before, but can certainly be one of the many possibilities.

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Flash floods from extremely large storms may also account for terrestrial fossils in marine deposits. Think beyond 100-year storms. More like 500-1,000 year size events capable of moving material far out beyond shallower waters and depositing those bones & teeth under sediment deep enough to preserve them.

In the Ordovician of the Cincinnati Arch there are storm beds that were otherwise in waters much deeper than normal wave base. They often preserve some of the best specimens. But they speculate that these were monstrous hurricanes beyond what we think of as big. If I remember right they were described as 2,000 year events.

We think of 100 or 500 year events as rare but in geological time they are just background noise. The fossil/geological record is a real mix of steady slow deposition punctuated often by cataclisms.

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After the Chesapeake Embayment withdrew due to falling sea levels, all manner of terrestrial beasts lived and died on what was once seabed. All the terrestrial mammal material I recovered from Westmoreland/Stratford Hall was from these later periods.

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This sometimes land, sometimes sea applies in spades to Florida. Florida only emerged from the oceans around 50 myas, due to the increased mass of polar ice caps sucking up the water. When walking around south Florida today , it is common to talk about 200-250 feet of salt water over the spot we happen to be standing.

The coastline of Florida has contracted and expanded hundreds of lateral miles over and over again. The mixture of land and sea based fossils is because for millions of years it was salt water, and then followed by 10s of thousands -maybe millions of years of land.

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The St Marys Fm (not sure where it's exposed on Calvert Cliffs) has some marginal marine and freshwater deposition where a freshwater catfish skeleton was recently described. Land animals would be more likely to occur in freshwater deposition but would guess your terrestrial finds are originating in later aged lags. This is particularly true if the terrestrial remains are dated to the Pliocene or Pleistocene. These later pebble lags are near the top of the section and are particularly rich at the contact with the marine deposits. They can include animals from the Miocene on up. I wouldn't give too much attention to bloat and float or storm events unless I found the terrestrial fossils in-situ in the Miocene Marine Beds. We find terrestrial and freshwater material here in NC in Cretaceous marine deposits but it is attributed to lag creation as the sea level rises over terrestrial environments.

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We found a Niobrarasaurus (dino) tail vertebra in the middle of the Cretaceous sea deposits of Kansas. Most likely died on the western coast of the ancient sea (Colorado) and floated into Kansas. Dropped a leg here, a tail there....

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Land mammal fossils are found very rarely in the Sharktooth Hill Bonebed as well. They are generally isolated teeth and foot bones but some jaw sections and large limb bone have also been documented (Prothero et al, 2008). These remains have been determined to have belonged to mammals that lived during the time of the bonebed deposition because the same species have been found in rocks of the same age (Barstovian Land Mammal Age, Middle Miocene) elsewhere in California and the US.

The "bloat and float" explanation applies to these fossils - land mammal remains getting washed into rivers during floods and then floating with the current some distance out to sea before sinking and final burial. I have seen some decent horse teeth ("Merychippus" form) and a few bones. In the 90's Bob Ernst found a amphicyonid jaw section (see Prothero et al, 2008; p. 303, fig. 4) with an identifiable molar in it. I remember when he showed it to me not long after digging it up. I think he found it in the "whale quarry." He found at least one dromomerycid (extinct deer-like form) skull as well.

I have never found a specimen while digging. I did find a rhino toe bone once while prepping a matrix chunk for Bob and the museum.

Prothero, D.R., Liter, M., Barnes, L.G., Wang, X., Mitchell, E., MacLeod, S., Whistler, D.P., Tedford, R.H., and Ray, C.E. 2008.

Land mammals from the Miocene marine rocks of the Sharktooth Hill bonebed, Kern County, California. In Lucas, S.G., G.S. Morgan, J.A. Spielmann, and D.R. Prothero (eds.). Neogene Mammals. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin 44:299-314.

This past weekend, while looking through my collection for some Rhino teeth/material I found along Calvert Cliffs some years ago, it got me thinking about why we find fossilized remains of some land animals in what are otherwise marine environments. From the fossil sites I collect at, I have found several Peccary (pig) specimens (mostly teeth and a few bones and jaw fragments), a possible deer tooth, and the aformentioned Rhino material (teeth). I know others have found horse teeth along Calvert Cliffs as well. Is it safe to assume that the reason for finding specimens from these (and other) land animals in marine environments is because they lived, fed, or travelled near the water? Or does it have to do with the shifting of the various marine sediments over time being deposited over the top of (or below) other sediments where the land animals had died? Or maybe there are other explanations?

Just curious.

Daryl.

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Great info folks. Would any of the aforementioned explanations provide reason as to why Gomphothere teeth have been found along Calvert Cliffs? I've seen pics of partial gomphothere teeth being found from the cliffs and have always hoped of finding one myself. Now that I realize how remains from these animals wind up in the material, I might lower my expectations of finding them.

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The Calvert Formation is early to mid Miocene, and Gompotheres roamed into the Pliocene; chances are that most of the Gomp material is from the later terrestrial deposits.

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One thing for sure is that Peccaries must have been fairly prolific; seems like every fossil collectors I know has found one or more Peccary teeth, bones, jaw fragments, etc. Peccary material seems to be one of the most "common" terrestrial mammals I've seen from the MD/VA region. I'm not sure I've heard of peccary material from places like Lee Creek though.

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Yes, peccary remains are known from the Yorktown Formation in Lee Creek (see Eshelman and Whitmore, Jr., 2008).

Years ago, the late Doug Donald sent me a peccary tooth from the Calvert Fm. He also said that when someone finds a land mammal tooth, it tends to be from a peccary. I think he added that he had seen a tapir tooth and a horse tooth from there.

Eshelman R.E. and F.C. Whitmore, Jr., 2008.

Early Pliocene (Late Hemphillian) Land Mammals from the Lee Creek Mine, Aurora, North Carolina. In Ray, C.E., D.J. Bohaska, I.A. Koretsky, L.W. Ward, and L.G. Barnes (eds.). Geology and Paleontology of the Lee Creek Mine, North Carolina, IV. Virginia Museum of Natural History Special Publication 14.

That Lee Creek volume is the last in a set of four on the geology and paleontology of the Lee Creek Mine. It covers and land and marine mammals with a summary of the research done there.

One thing for sure is that Peccaries must have been fairly prolific; seems like every fossil collectors I know has found one or more Peccary teeth, bones, jaw fragments, etc. Peccary material seems to be one of the most "common" terrestrial mammals I've seen from the MD/VA region. I'm not sure I've heard of peccary material from places like Lee Creek though.

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Yes, peccary remains are known from the Yorktown Formation in Lee Creek (see Eshelman and Whitmore, Jr., 2008).

Years ago, the late Doug Donald sent me a peccary tooth from the Calvert Fm. He also said that when someone finds a land mammal tooth, it tends to be from a peccary. I think he added that he had seen a tapir tooth and a horse tooth from there.

Eshelman R.E. and F.C. Whitmore, Jr., 2008.

Early Pliocene (Late Hemphillian) Land Mammals from the Lee Creek Mine, Aurora, North Carolina. In Ray, C.E., D.J. Bohaska, I.A. Koretsky, L.W. Ward, and L.G. Barnes (eds.). Geology and Paleontology of the Lee Creek Mine, North Carolina, IV. Virginia Museum of Natural History Special Publication 14.

That Lee Creek volume is the last in a set of four on the geology and paleontology of the Lee Creek Mine. It covers and land and marine mammals with a summary of the research done there.

Thanks siteseer. I have that volume so I'll have to check it out. From all the trip reports posted on elasmo I don't recall any pictures of peccary teeth/material. I'm curious to go back and look at those reports again and see if there are any, just to see how often folks reported it (only one mention: March 26th, 2001 a peccary molar was found). I know not everyone shows their finds at the end of the day, so Pat or the other "trip reporters" certainly wouldn't catch every instance of peccary material being found, and some folks might not even think to show their material if they have something unusual.

Daryl.

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Daryl,

Oh yeah. I used to read the elasmo Lee Creek reports too. A few people found some nice megalodon teeth but I liked seeing the weird stuff too like seal remains, a bramble tooth, or a Hexanchus.

Yeah, some people like to keep what they find private.

Jess

Thanks siteseer. I have that volume so I'll have to check it out. From all the trip reports posted on elasmo I don't recall any pictures of peccary teeth/material. I'm curious to go back and look at those reports again and see if there are any, just to see how often folks reported it (only one mention: March 26th, 2001 a peccary molar was found). I know not everyone shows their finds at the end of the day, so Pat or the other "trip reporters" certainly wouldn't catch every instance of peccary material being found, and some folks might not even think to show their material if they have something unusual.

Daryl.

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Regarding peccary fossils-there have been a few found at Lee Creek over the years although they certainly can't be called common. I found a tooth (crown only) in the late 90's and I've only seen one other found since, although I have heard of others. Many people find things they dont realize they have until much later--and many new collectors are hesitant to even show their fossils. I think peccary teeth are probably among the rarest of fossils (along side rhino, tapir and dugong) found at Lee Creek. I've never heard of a peccary bone being found. Horse teeth and mastodon teeth were much more commonly found--especially before the use of the bucketwheel for prestripping the Pleistocene in prep for actual mining.

Edited by mako-mama

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I have not been lucky enough to find any terrestrial stuff at Calvert, but do know that peccary is the most common fossil of the like found there. Even so, it is not a common find at all.

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At Calvert Cliffs MD, we are mostly talking about land mammal fossils found in the Calvert formation, zones 10, 12 and 14. These are the vertebrate and shell accumulatory beds thats produce the meg teeth, etc, as well as the terrestrial mammal fauna. These zones are not strict transgressive lags or channel lags such as is common in NC, and there is not significant reworked terrestrial input involved or much older reworked material at all. Even though they do rest upon erosional disconformities with the underlying formations being subtidal or intertidal, the condensed shell beds consist of almost entirely contemporaneous invert and vert material, I assume the same is true for the land mammal fossils found within. Kidwell calls these beds stratigraphically condensed transgressive sections. This implies slow net sedimentation, winnowing, etc (lagging) throughout the (mostly) shell deposits. The soemtimes fairly thick sections are basically a lag themselves, and also comprise either the totality or a significant portion of the transgressive deposition. Slow net sedimentation allows for greater preservation of bloat and float material, likely aided by large storms, and vert material in general. Recent surficial gravel lags are not significant sources of fossils found in the area. The St.Marys formation does have some paralic deposition, but this formation is not as prolific or commonly collected. And not generally the area talked about when considering the Calvert Cliffs local fauna.

The St Marys Fm (not sure where it's exposed on Calvert Cliffs) has some marginal marine and freshwater deposition where a freshwater catfish skeleton was recently described. Land animals would be more likely to occur in freshwater deposition but would guess your terrestrial finds are originating in later aged lags. This is particularly true if the terrestrial remains are dated to the Pliocene or Pleistocene. These later pebble lags are near the top of the section and are particularly rich at the contact with the marine deposits. They can include animals from the Miocene on up. I wouldn't give too much attention to bloat and float or storm events unless I found the terrestrial fossils in-situ in the Miocene Marine Beds. We find terrestrial and freshwater material here in NC in Cretaceous marine deposits but it is attributed to lag creation as the sea level rises over terrestrial environments.

In this case, the formation that is producing those terrestrial remains is the Woodbury, a regressive formation, which was deposited during a sea-level highstand. This means the coastline was pretty far away and the water relatively deep. Bloat and float is by far the best explanation in this case with storms likely being involved.

I hunt in NJ (where I live) . During the Cretaceous it was under water and though the are very rare we still find terrestrial remain. I live only 2 miles from the famous Hadrosaur site in Haddonfield and I was told these remains were "bloat and float" remains. An animal dies on land, gets washed into the water, the gases of decomposition cause it to float and currents carry it out to sea, where predation takes place and the remains sink to the bottom

Edited by non-remanié

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I have Mastodon material, mostly tooth cusps, from Westmoreland/Stratford Hall. The St. Marys is somewhat better represented in the sequence there; do you think that would likely be the source, or would they have been from later overburden?

I also have a Merychippus astragalus (IDed at the Smithsonian) from there that about had to be from a floater.

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Surely the Mastodon material came from the surficial overburden. I know further upriver along the Potomac (Va side), actually on a beach with paleocene outcrop, Dave Parris of the NJSM was making collecting trips there just to collect pleistocene mammal teeth along the shore. For some reason the overburden in that vicinity must have been significantly rich to find enough of them reworked into shoreline gravels.

D. C. Parris and B. S. Smith. 1993. Quaternary Vertebrates from the Virginia Coastal Plain. The Mosasaur 5:19-21

I have Mastodon material, mostly tooth cusps, from Westmoreland/Stratford Hall. The St. Marys is somewhat better represented in the sequence there; do you think that would likely be the source, or would they have been from later overburden?

I also have a Merychippus astragalus (IDed at the Smithsonian) from there that about had to be from a floater.

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Cowsharks, could you please post pictures of your Calvert land mammals in a photo gallery? I'm particularly intersted in the deer tooth. As I noted in another thread, true deer aren't known from the Barstovian. I'd like to see if we can figure out what it is. I'm also interested in the rhino material as well.

As others have noted, terrestrial mammals are occassionally found in some marine sediments. Both Sharktooth Hill and the Calvert Cliffs are well known for their terrestrial mammals. Along the Calvert Cliffs, the peccary Cynorca proterva is particularly well known, represented by several hundred specimens.

Some references:

Gazin, C. L. and R. L. Collins, 1950, Remains of Land Mammals from the Miocene of the Chesapeake Bay Region; Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 116, Number 2.

Wright, David B. and Ralph E. Eshleman, 1987, Miocene Tayassuidae (Mammalia) from the Chesapeake Group of the mid-Atlantic Coast and their bearing on marine-nonmarine correlation; Journal of paleontology, V. 61 (3):604-618.

Ralph Eshleman, Brian Beatty and Daryl Doming; Terrestrial Mammalian Remains from the Miocene Chesapeake Group of Calvert Cliffs, Maryland and comparisons with Miocene terrestrial mammal faunas of he mid-Atlantic coast; (I have a pdf of this paper if anyone is interested, message me with your email and I'll send it along)

Rich

Edited by RichW9090

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Here is a list of the currently known terrestiral mammals from the Calvert Cliffs:

St. Mary's Formation (Zones 20-24): Procamelus cf. P. minor [camel]

Desmathyus sp. [peccary]

Tapirus sp. [tapir]

Neohipparion lenticulare [horse]

Equidae sp. (bigger than Parahippus) [horse]

Rhinoceratidae undet. [rhino]

Choptank Formation (Zones 16-19) ?Synthetoceras sp. [horned ruminant]

Prosynthetoceras sp. [horned ruminant]

cf. Gomphotherium calvertensis [proboscidean]

Desmathyus [peccary]

"Prosthenops niobrarensis ("Hesperhys" of others) [peccary]

(Zone 14/15) ?Aphelops sp. [rhino]

(Zones 14) Aphelops sp. [rhino]

Prosynthetocers cf. P texanus [horned ruminant]

Amphicyon cf. A. frendens [bear-dog]

?Gomphotherium sp. [proboscidean]

"Prosthenops" ziphodonticus [peccary]

(Zone 13 or 14) Gomphotherium calvertensis [proboscidean]

?Aphelops sp. [rhino]

?Merychippus sp. [horse]

(Zone 13) ?Merychippus sp. [horse]

(Zone 12) cf. Equidae [horse]

Camelidae indet. [camel]

Cynorca proterva [peccary]

(Zone 11) ?Equidae [horse]

(Zone 10) Cynorca proterva [peccary]

Tomarctus sp. [canid]

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And here, by way of comparison, are the terrestrial mammals known from Sharktooth Hill:

Pseudaelurus cf. P. intrepidus [felid]

Paratomarctus cf. P tererarius [canid]

Aelurodon sp. [canid]

Pliocyon medius [canid]

Brachypsalis obliquidens [mustelid]

Miotapirus sp. [tapir]

Teleoceras medicornutum [rhino]

Aphelops megalodus [rhino]

Hyohippus sp. [horse]

"Merychippus" brevidontus [horse]

Miolabine camel undet. [camel]

?Aepycamelinae [camel]

Bouromeryx americanus [horned ruminant]

Miomastodon sp. [proboscidean]

There is also a very nice skull of another horned ruminant, perhaps Cranioceras, recently found by the new owners of part of the Ernst Quarries which has yet to be fully studied.

Nine of these are represented by single specimens, only two of them by more than 5 specimens (7 and 9). The fauna is thought to be Middle Barstovian, or just a bit earlier than the Late Barstovian Calvert Cliffs mammals.

Edited by RichW9090
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