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Cretaceous Fossil Id: Mississippi


varanus_komodoensis

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Hey everyone! This is my first post here, and I hope someone can help me out with some fossil identification. I frequently visit the W.M. Browning Cretaceous Fossil Park in Frankstown, Mississippi, which is about 30 minutes north of Tupelo. It's a really fascinating place - when the city was building Highway 45, they uncovered millions and millions of fossils from petrified wood and horsetail to sharks, rays, mollusks, snails, whales, and even mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, and dinosaurs (mostly of the hadrosaurid variety). It's an amazing place and I recommend that anyone who is into fossil-hunting visit there at some point, although you will have to get in the water and be willing to do a lot of shoveling!

I just graduated with a Master's in Biology, and I love paleontology, but I haven't been trained in it. I've found enough sharks' teeth to be able to identify that most of the time, I find teeth from Scapanorhynchus texanus and Squalicorax kaupi. However, I found a few fossils today that have left me stumped, and I was hoping someone could help me identify them. I apologize if the lighting is harsh; I did my best to make them as good as possible. I will be more than happy to re-take these pictures at different angles or with different lighting if I need to.

The guide that I've been using to identify fossils I find at Frankstown can be downloaded for free here: http://www.deq.state.ms.us/Mdeq.nsf/page/Geology_AGuideToTheFrankstownVertebrateFossilLocalityUpperCretaceous_PrentissCountyMississippi?OpenDocument

It might be helpful for those of you who are trying to give me a hand with this, but it's also a good read for anyone who's interested in visiting the Frankstown site one day.

All of these fossils are from the late Cretaceous era, around 65-70 mya.

The first one I need help with is this tooth. I have no idea what it is. It was split in half like this when I found it.

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The second one is this fossil. It isn't complete. I'm about 99% sure that it's a vertebrae of some kind, but I don't know if it's fish or reptile. I think it's a vertebrae because it has those outer smooth ridges and a concave feel on all sides toward the center, like a bowl. I'm holding it in this picture because I couldn't get a good photo of it by itself. It's very small; only a couple of centimeters in diameter.

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And the last one is this....thing. I don't even know if this is a fossil or if it's just petrified wood. I have several pieces of petrified wood and none of them look like this.

post-15397-0-46924700-1400977358_thumb.jpg

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Mam, welcome to the Forum from Tennessee. I'll be thinking on your finds, the tooth in pic 1&2 are very interesting to me....i'd like to speculate my opinion on it, but i better study on it alittle more first...but that's an outstanding find! I'm only 88 miles north of Frankstown, you might be even close to me....

--- Joshua

tennesseespride@gmail.com

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The photos of the split tooth are not that clear, but it appears to be a mosasaur tooth. It may be a pterygoid tooth. I can't make anything of the other two items.

Welcome to The Forum. :)

The human mind has the ability to believe anything is true.  -  JJ

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I'm sorry that the pictures aren't as clear as I wanted. The lighting in my apartment isn't very good. Maybe I can take some better ones tomorrow when it's light outside.

I would be really excited if it was a mosasaur tooth! Thanks for the welcoming :)

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I agree with John, split Mos. tooth, the other picture a little fuzzy to ID----Tom

post-3940-0-42482000-1400982997_thumb.jpg

Grow Old Kicking And Screaming !!
"Don't Tread On Me"

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Mam, the tooth in pics 1 & 2 certainly have a Mosasaurian like to them on the outside surface. In pic 2, does the center part which runs the length of the tooth feel more like a ridge, or is it more of a sunk in depression?....i only say because i can't tell which. Mosasaurs having a cavity in the tooth center, that should be more of a depression there in the center...it would certainly be odd if if felt more like a ridge. Also, there is an unclassified Crocodilian type @ the site. Your guide to Frankstown should show examples of those teeth...which when small like in your specimen, are sometimes harder to tell between Mosasaur and the Crocodilian type. And it has to be unusual for a tooth to split in half right down the center like that ( in my mind anyways). Congratulations on your most excellent find! :)

Just to take a shot in the dark on pic 4, my first impression was small toe bone from something like turtle perhaps...

--- Joshua

tennesseespride@gmail.com

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It might be the anterior of a Globidens.alabamaensis, the shape would be somewhat typical of the anterior, and if so, perhaps that would explain how the tooth split down the center....while crushing shells. What i can't get over is the view in pic 2 at the base, the cavity takes up practically the whole base from left to right...strange.

Edited by Tennessees Pride

--- Joshua

tennesseespride@gmail.com

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To answer your question, Tennessee Pride, the tooth feels mostly flat on the inside, but I would say that there is a very slight depression in the center, originating from a deep depression where the root is. If I had to choose between "ridge" and "depression", I'd definitely go with "depression". I do hope it's a Mosasaur tooth; that would be so exciting! I take it G. alabamensis ate shellfish, then? That would make a lot of sense why it's split the way it is. I find it hard to believe that it split after falling out of the animal's mouth and rolling around on the sea floor; it's just too perfectly smooth of a cut.

I was also thinking something like "turtle toe" for pic 4. It's just such a weird little thing - I've never seen anything like it before. I'll try to get a better picture of it tomorrow in broad daylight and upload it. The lighting in my apartment is awful and not conducive for photography.

Edited by varanus_komodoensis
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Hey there Mississippi! Yes mam, G.a was known to be a "shell-crusher", as far as i know, that was their main diet. Typically though the teeth are blunted on the point and more rounded...but the anterior teeth are different looking...they look similar to your specimen mam. Also yours appears to me to be slightly blunted on the point...which would be expected for G.a, even on the anteriors. Those teeth are somewhat rare! :D....i'm jealous. :) i hear ya on the tooth spliting while still in the mouth...i second that opinion mam, and if it's a G.a, that has to explain how such a strange break occured! From what i know, those teeth like that from Frankstown are rather hard and durable when found, so i couldn't imagine how the break could have happened after deposition in the sediments.

There is a site about 2 miles from my house that i work over often looking for that exact Mosasaur species. It's a large site on family property and is the Demopolis formation (there's pretty much no where in Tennessee to bang out some Demopolis clay, so i feel extremely blessed). @ the site almost every single shell has been munched, so i know it was no doubt a feeding ground...have very high hope for what is gonna come outta that!...still haven't hit what i'm looking for yet....it's coming. :) looks like you've beat me to it in the meantime....can't wait to see what you bring home next! & yes, more pics from the last specimen would be great....ain't nothing like coming home with some good'ol Cretaceous bones!!! :D

Edited by Tennessees Pride

--- Joshua

tennesseespride@gmail.com

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Finding mosasaur teeth that are split is not uncommon, for reasons other than crushing shells. While I'm not familiar with the exact fauna down there, if it were one of the mosasaur teeth from up here, I would definitely not call it Globidens...

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Finding mosasaur teeth that are split is not uncommon, for reasons other than crushing shells. While I'm not familiar with the exact fauna down there, if it were one of the mosasaur teeth from up here, I would definitely not call it Globidens...

Sir, perhaps these pictures will clear up some of the confusion. While the tooth isn't typical of what one would expect a Globidens to look like, some Globidens teeth are similar. Of course it is hard to give a species identification from one tooth alone....many times impossible....i wouldn't disqualify a possible G.a in this case.

post-14571-0-30244400-1401025283_thumb.jpg

Edited by Tennessees Pride

--- Joshua

tennesseespride@gmail.com

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.....from a different Globidens species. I also must confess, i've never actually seen a Mosasaur tooth with a split perfectly down the center like that...though i haven't saw it all by any means. And certainly the tooth could be from a different Mosasaurian species...but it appears there is a good G.a possibility also.

post-14571-0-11796600-1401026111_thumb.jpg

--- Joshua

tennesseespride@gmail.com

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Finding mosasaur teeth that are split is not uncommon, for reasons other than crushing shells. While I'm not familiar with the exact fauna down there, if it were one of the mosasaur teeth from up here, I would definitely not call it Globidens...

Agreed.

Just as Tom showed in his photo above, split mosasaur teeth are not uncommon at all down here in Texas, too. I also know from handling quite a few personally found mosasaur teeth that they can be extremely fragile and susceptible to stress cracks. Sometimes it seems you can look at them with the wrong expression and they will break.... :P My point is that they often are found in shales in the southern U. S. that have damaged them due to the expansion and contraction of their surrounding matrix - not due to a living fracture.

Based on the photos above, VK's tooth appears to be the pterygoid tooth or a replacement tooth of a large mosasaur.

  • I found this Informative 1

The human mind has the ability to believe anything is true.  -  JJ

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Globidens alabamensis teeth have a different texture to the outside enamel than Mosasaurs. Fossilized Mosasaurs teeth have striation lines running from the tip to the root or they are smooth, Globidens doesn't as shown in the pictures of both anterior and lateral teeth I have found----Tom

post-3940-0-31861300-1401033204_thumb.jpgTypical Mosasaur tooth on the left, other are 3 Globidens

post-3940-0-51532900-1401033274_thumb.jpgGlobidens anterior tooth showing enamel texture

post-3940-0-62529200-1401033372_thumb.jpgBoth anterior and lateral Globidens

Edited by Foshunter
  • I found this Informative 1

Grow Old Kicking And Screaming !!
"Don't Tread On Me"

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Nice photos, Tom. In another thread some of us were talking about crocodile teeth but Globidens came up as well and some teeth were shown on that page and two previous pages. Here's the link:

http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/1063-are-these-crocodilia-molars/page-3?hl=globidens

Jess

Globidens alabamensis teeth have a different texture to the outside enamel than Mosasaurs. Fossilized Mosasaurs teeth have striation lines running from the tip to the root or they are smooth, Globidens doesn't as shown in the pictures of both anterior and lateral teeth I have found----Tom

attachicon.gif031.JPGTypical Mosasaur tooth on the left, other are 3 Globidens

attachicon.gif002.JPGGlobidens anterior tooth showing enamel texture

attachicon.gif004.JPGBoth anterior and lateral Globidens

Edited by siteseer
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Another way to tell if you have a Globidens tooth is the tooth crown wil have a round opening at it's apex. I made a closeup of the tooth texture as well----Tom

post-3940-0-93190300-1401132555_thumb.jpgpost-3940-0-22548200-1401132557_thumb.jpgpost-3940-0-74560200-1401132558_thumb.jpg

Grow Old Kicking And Screaming !!
"Don't Tread On Me"

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Thank you so much for the help, everyone! The tooth is split in half, so it's hard to tell if it has a hole at the top, but it doesn't look like it. The striations also run all the way down the tooth like the "typical" mosasaur tooth and not G. alabamensis. How do you tell if it's a mosasaur and not a crocodile?

Here are some hopefully better pictures that I took in the broad daylight of the other two fossils I found.

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Pictures 1-4 look like a broken shark vert. #5-6 looks like a concretion, they take on some weird shapes----Tom

Grow Old Kicking And Screaming !!
"Don't Tread On Me"

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croc teeth (generally) have a round interior with concentric rings of growth, mosasaur teeth bases have a somewhat eliptical (like a cats eye) depression in them, keep in mind that these are generalizations and a broken tooth tip doesn't necessarily show the distinctive characteristics

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  • 2 years later...

Hey Foshunter, gorgeous Globidens teeth in your pics! I wonder if the tooth in the far left of your first pic (if it is as flat as it looks in the photo) might actually be Protosphyraena. Here are a couple that I have found in Cretaceous deposits that are like yours.

protosphyraena-1.jpg

protosphyraena-2.jpg

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Varanus, I have found a split tooth just like yours in Frankstown as well. Here is a pic of mine on the left. I'm fairly certain it is a small mosasaur tooth like the one on the right in this pic. This pic shows the front and back of both teeth. Sorry these pics are showing up so large! :( I have found Globidens in that area, but they have a very distinct, unmistakable rippled enamel.

sm-mosasaur-400px.jpg

sm-mosasaur2-400px.jpg

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Also, Varanus, I agree that your vertebrae are likely shark vertebrae. Those are smooth along the outside ring. Ray vertebrae are also smooth, but they are oval which is hard to make out from this pic. Although one of my friends found a very large ray vertebra there, yours is most likely that yours is shark because of the size. The other fossil looks like it could be a horn coral that is geodized. I have only found one tiny horn coral there which appears to be the same size and aside from being geodized, it looks much like yours.

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I have been to the Frankstown many times. Your first item is a split mosasaur tooth. In fact, I have a split one as well from that site that looks like it might be the other half. I doubt it though. 

Item 2 is a broken shark vertebrae. Item 3 appears to be a concretion that has some invertebrate ichnofossils in it. They are pretty common at that site.

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