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Plate from Webb, W. E. 1872 (p. 357). Buffalo Land - An authentic account of the discoveries, adventures, and mishaps of a scientific and sporting party in the Wild West. Hubbard Bros., Philadelphia, 503 pp. The artist is unknown but it is likely he was coached by E.D. Cope since all of the extinct animals in the picture were named by Cope from the Smoky Hill Chalk of Western Kansas. Webb's book does include two chapters written by Cope that he also published in 1872 in a USGS Report.   See Davidson, 2003.

Cope, E. D., 1872. [Sketch of an expedition in the valley of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas].

Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 12(87):174-176. (read at the Oct. 20, 1871 meeting)

Copyright © 2002-2011 by Mike Everhart

Last updated 05/21/2011

Wherein Professor Cope talks about the rigors of fossil collecting in Kansas in the 1870s. He describes the skeleton of a large fish and gives it the name, Portheus molossus Cope (1872, p. 175) [Previously named Xiphactinus audax by Leidy in 1870]. O. P. Hay later pointed out that Portheus actually was a junior synonym of Xiphactinus. (Hay, O. P., 1898. Observations on the genus of Cretaceous fishes, called by Professor Cope Portheus. Science, Abstract,  7(175):646).

In addition, Cope also describes the discovery of a giant marine turtle and names it Protostega gigas.

1871.]                                                 173                                    [Hartshorne



Stated Meeting, Oct. 20, 1871.

Present, nine members.

Curator, Dr. Carson, in the chair.


   A letter, acknowledging receipt of No. 86 proceedings, was received from the University of the City of New York.

    Donations for the Library were received from the Revue Politique; the Astronomer Royal of England; the Editors of Nature; the R. Institute of Cornwall; Thomas P. James, Esq; the Editor of the Old and New; the American Chemist; American Journal of Medical Sciences, and Medical News and Library. --

    A letter was read from Professor Cope to the Secretary, dated Fort Wallace, Kansas, 10th month 9, 1871, giving a preliminary report of his expedition into the Valley of the Smoky Hill river, Kansas, and

 Cope.]                                                174                                           [Oct. 20,


descriptions of new fossil sauroids and Chelonians discovered and collected there.

    Pending nominations No. 679 and new nominations, Nos. 8; 680 and 681 were read, and the meeting was adjourned.



                                                                                                FORT WALLACE, KANSAS,

                                                                                                                   October 9th, 1871.

My Dear Prof. Lesley :---  [See Kansas 1872 map HERE]

    I write to give a brief account of the expedition of seventeen days, which I have just made in the valley of the Smoky Rill river in Kansas. Through the courtesy of Gen. Jno. Pope, commanding the Department of the Missouri, I was furnished with an order on the post commandant at Fort Wallace for a suitable escort. This was furnished by Capt. E. Butler (5th infantry), who spared no pains to make the expedition a success.

    We first camped at a spring eighteen miles south of Fort Wallace, and five miles south of Butte Creek. It had a fine flow of water, and being without name I called it Fossil Spring. On a bluff, on Butte Creek, Lieut. Whitten discovered the fragments of a monster saurian projecting from the shale, and on following the bones into the hill, exhumed a large part of the skeleton of Liodon dyspelor Cope (Proceeds. A. P. S. for 1870). This was welcome, as the species had been previously known from vertebrę only. The pelvic arch was found perfectly preserved, and the scapular arch and limbs partially so. The iliac bone is slender and straight, slightly expanded at the acetabulum. The ischium has a somewhat similar form, but is curved. The axis of the proximal portion is directed upwards; the shaft then turns into a horizontal direction, and lies beneath and at one side of the vertebral column without uniting with its fellow. The pubes are elongate, but wider than the other elements and flattened. They are in contact in front medially, and have an angulate axis. A short process projects from near the proximal end, on the exterior margin. The femur is a flat bone, slightly constricted medially, and with a decurved and projecting portion of the proximal articular, surface on the inner side representing a head. The extremities of the dentary bones are each drawn to an acute point, differing thus toto coelo from those of the L. proriger.

    On the same bluff another Liodon and a Clidastes were found, with five species of fishes. On examining neighboring bluffs and denuded areas, bones supposed to be those of Pterodactyle, two species of Clidastes, a Dinosaur, a Crocodile, and numerous fishes were brought to light. In a similar location on Fox Creek canon, one of the escort, Martin V. Hartwell, to whom I am indebted for many fine discoveries, observed the almost entire skeleton of a large fish, furnished with an uncommonly


1871.]                                                175                                                [Cope.


powerful offensive dentition. The jaws were stout, the dentary bone very deep. The teeth in a single row in all the bones, but of irregular sizes. There are two or three very large canines in each maxillary, and one in the premaxillary, three or four in the dentary separated by an interval. The lack of coronoid bone and many other characters show that it should be referred to the order Isospondali, and is probably allied to the herring and the Saurodontidae. The vertebrę are grooved, and there is a basi-occipital tube but little developed. The teeth are simple cylindric conic, with smooth enamel, and project two inches above the alveolar border, and each descends an inch into its alveolus. The species and genus are new to our palaeontology, and may be named Portheus molossus. It turned out on subsequent exploration to have been quite abundant in the Cretaceous seas. It was probably the dread of its contemporaries among the fishes as well as the smaller saurians.

    On another occasion, we detected unusually attenuated bones projecting from the side of a low bluff of yellow chalk, and some pains were taken to uncover them. They were found to belong to a singular reptile, of affinities probably to the Testudinata, this point remaining uncertain. Instead of being expanded into a carapace, the ribs are slender and flat. The tubercular portion is expanded into a transverse shield to beyond the capitular articulation, which thus projects as it were in the midst of a flat plate. These plates have radiating lines of growth to the circumference, which is dentate. Above each rib was a large flat ossification of much tenuity, and digitate on the margins, which appears to represent the dermo-ossification of the Tortoises. Two of these bones were recovered, each two feet across. The femur resembles in some measure that ascribed by Leidy to Platecarpus tympaniticus, while the phalanges are of great size. Those of one series measured eight inches and a half in length, and are very stout, indicating a length of limb of seven feet at least. The whole expanse would thus be twenty feet if estimated on a Chelonian basis. The proper reference of this species cannot now be made, but both it and the genus are clearly new to science, and its affinities not very near to those known. Not the least of its peculiarities is the great tenuity of all the bones. It may be called Protostega gigas.

    The greater part of a large Liodon proriger Cope was found scattered over a denuded surface at one point, his huge truncate, bowsprit-like snout, betraying his individuality at once. Portions of other examples of this reptile were afterwards found. Remains of several species of Clidastes occurred at various points in the neighborhood of Fossil Spring. One was found in the side of a bluff fifty feet above the bottom of the canon; Martin Hartwell exhumed another near the C. cineriarum Cope almost complete.

   We subsequently left this locality and encamped at Russell Springs on the Smoky Hill, twenty-six miles distant. On the way a large Clidastes or some forty or more feet in length was found lying on a knoll of shale, with the head displaying the palatal surface upwards. On the Smoky our


Cope.]                                                176                                     [Oct. 20, 1871.


explorations were attended with success. When we shifted camp, it was to go to Eagle Tail in Colorado, whence we returned again to Fossil Spring. The richness of this locality was again apparent, and we added to our collection a number of species. Among these may be mentioned Liodon ictericus Cope and two new Clidastes. The writer originally pointed out the existence of representatives of the orders Pythonomorpha and Sauropterygia, in this cretaceous basin. Prof. Marsh's explorations determined the existence of Ornithosauria and Crocodilia. The present investigation adds Dinosauria and perhaps Testudinata, or the group that the new form Protostega Cope represents.

    The preceding account expresses some of the points of interest observed. These, with others, now unnoticed, will be included in a final report.

    The giants of this sea were the Liodon proriger, Cope, L. dyspelor, Cope, Polycotylus latipinnis, Cope, and Elasmosaurus platyurus, Cope. Of these the first was apparently the most abundant. The second was the most elongate, exceeding in length perhaps any other known reptile. The last named had the most massive body, and exhibited an extraordinary appearance in consequence of the great length of its neck.

     For kind assistance, I am much indebted to Capt. Edwin Butler, post commandant at Fort Wallace, to Dr. W. H. King, post surgeon, and to Capt. Wyllys Lyman. To Lieut. Jas. H. Whitten and Sergeant W. Gardner, who accompanied the expedition, much of its success is also due.

                                                  I am, etc.,                           EDW. D. COPE.


....Hay, O. P., 1898. Observations on the genus of Cretaceous fishes called by Professor Cope Portheus. Science, 7(175):646.

646                      SCIENCE                 [N. S. VOL. VII. No. 175.

Professor 0. P. Hay made some 'Observations on the genus of Cretaceous Fishes, called by Professor Cope Portheus,' discussing the osteology of the genus at some length and particularly the skull, shoulder girdle and vertebral column. He said that in many respects it resembled the Tarpon of our Southern coasts, although possessing widely different teeth, and undoubtedly belonged to the Isospondyli. The conclusion was reached that Cope's Portheus is identical with the earlier described genus Xiphactinus of Leidy. (Since the paper was read the author has learned that Professor Williston has reached the same conclusion.)

Suggested reading:

Cope, E. D., 1872. On the geology and paleontology of the Cretaceous strata of Kansas. Preliminary Report of the United States Geological Survey of Montana and Portions of the Adjacent Territories, Part III - Paleontology, pp. 318-349.

Davidson, J. P. 2003. Edward Drinker Cope, Professor Paleozoic and Buffalo Land. Kansas Academy of Science, Transactions 106(3-4):177-191.