KS-Paleontologist2.jpg (53481 bytes)

The 12th Annual Kansas Academy of Science Paleontology Symposium

was held during the 143rd Annual Meeting of 

The Kansas Academy of Science


Baker University,

Baldwin City, Kansas


April 8-9, 2011

LEFT:  The first   paleontologists in Kansas:  Upper row, left to right: E.D. Cope, O.C. Marsh, B.F. Mudge; Lower Row: C. H. Sternberg, S.W. Williston, G.F. Sternberg.

For more information regarding the KAS Paleontology Symposiums, please contact Mike Everhart

Paleontology in the Midwest

Join Cope, Marsh, Mudge, Williston, the Sternbergs, H. T. Martin and the many others who have reported on fossils from the Midwest.

Abstracts from the 2011 Meeting:

Bader, K.S1 and Martin, L.D.2, 1. Petrified Forest National Park and, 2. University of Kansas Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center . Snake Coprolites from the Pleistocene Angus Local Fauna, Nebraska . Coprolites from a Pleistocene fluvial deposit preserve characteristics that aid in the identification of a tracemaker. They were collected while screen washing sediment from the Angus Local Fauna (UNSM Coll. Loc. No-101), a Lower Illinoian deposit located one and one-half miles southwest of Angus , Nebraska . The deposit is interpreted as a small oxbow pond formed from a tributary of a larger stream and contains a diverse fauna of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. It is overlain by windblown silts of the Loveland Loess Formation containing two buried soil horizons, the Sangamon Paleosoil and the Peoria Loess Formation. The coprolites have an ellipsoidal shape and a unique series of parallel longitudinal grooves on the surface. Ranid frog bones are exposed on a broken section of one coprolite. Initial morphological comparison of the coprolite with modern fecal material excludes all animal taxa except snakes. A survey of solid fecal material from large (>30 cm adult size) snakes native to the Great Plains revealed that only water snakes (Colubridae: Natricinae) produce grooved feces. Feces from the natricine snake Nerodia sipedon retained the grooved texture only when deposited out of water and allowed to dry. Dried N. sipedon feces that were later submerged overnight did not dissolve or deform nor were the grooves obscured.

Connolly, A.M. and Martin, L.D., Department of Geology, University of Kansas, and Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas. A PRELIMINARY STUDY ON THE PALEOBIOGEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION OF MOSASAURS IN RELATION TO THE SIZE OF THE PARIETAL FORAMEN. Studies on the biological effects of the parietal foramen (PF) in modern day lizards and ancient organisms have been minimal at best. There is also a flawed practice of measuring a PF of a specimen in comparison to its skull area because species have various and inconsistent skull shapes. The few studies of the PF however have indicated that the PF helps thermoregulation in lizards. Lizards that lack a PF in the families of Agamidae and Iguanidae are found within 10 degrees of the equator while those that retained a PF are found in higher latitudes. The PF in Iguanidae species’ skulls were thus measured to test this hypothesis and found that the higher latitude a species’ habitat is, the larger its PF is in relation to its occipital condyle. The occipital condyle was used as a comparison to the PF due to its limitation in variability among species. Thus, an Iguanidae lizard that is found in a cool, high latitude environment is dependent upon a large PF to regulate body temperature. An ongoing study is now comparing this data with the PF size in Mosasaurs (Order: Squamata, Family: Mosasauridae). The results of this study could tell what kind of environment the Mosasaur species lived in.

Everhart, M.J., Sternberg Museum of Natural History , Fort Hays State University . CRETACEOUS SHARKS OF KANSAS – A REVIEW OF RECENT DISCOVERIES. Cretaceous shark teeth from Kansas were first mentioned by John LeConte in his 1868 railroad survey. Additional specimens were collected by Dr. George M. Sternberg and figured by Leidy in 1873. E.D. Cope also collected shark teeth during his brief 1871 visit and figured them in his 1875 Cretaceous Vertebrata. In 1900, Samuel W. Williston described and published photographs of Cretaceous shark teeth in Volume 6 of the University Geological Survey of Kansas. During the next one hundred years, however, little was added to our knowledge of the Cretaceous shark faunas of the state during the period when much of Kansas was covered by the Western Interior Seaway. In the late 1990s, advances were made in the description of existing specimens, and the compilation and reporting of species occurring in these Cretaceous deposits. More recently, a number of previously unreported genera and species of Cretaceous sharks have been recognized from Kansas . These include “paleosharks” (Hybodus (Meristodonoides) and Polyacrodus), rays (Rhinobatos and Pseudohypolophus), sawfishes (Onchopristis and Ptychotrygon), a bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium), Carpet sharks (Cantioscyllium and Orectoloboides), Lamniform sharks including a Megamouth shark (Megachasma) and Cardabiodon, Cretodus, Carcharias amonensis, Johnlongia and Archaeolamna, and several Anacoracid sharks (Pseudocorax, Squalicorax microserratodon and other species currently being described). Williston’s (1900) Leptostyrax bicuspidatus” is now considered to be a junior synonym of L. macrorhiza Cope 1875. Additionally, two species of Ptychodus initially named by Williston have also been determined to be junior synonyms, and reassigned: Ptychodus anonymus = P. rugosus and P. polygyrus = P. marginalis.

A.R. Falk1 and Martin, L.D.2, 1. Department of Geology, University of Kansas and, 2. Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas . Comparison of a Mesozoic Avian Ichnofauna with one from the Early Eocene of Wyoming . Comparison of the avian trackway record from the Early Eocene Green River Formation of Utah with that from the Early Cretaceous of Korea reveals some interesting similarities. The Korean sample contains some of the earliest known avian tracks being only twenty or thirty millions of years younger than Archaeopteryx. The Korean avifauna is composed almost entirely of water-marginal and aquatic ornithurine birds, as is the Eocene assemblage; however, the Eocene assemblage contains body fossils, a part of the record, that the Cretaceous assemblage lacks. The diversity is approximately the same in the two assemblages as are the indications of behavioral activity. Several different types of feeding behaviors are present during both time periods—in the Cretaceous, probing and pecking behaviors, along with spoonbill-like scything behaviors, have been reported, and heron-like feeding patterns have been observed. Dabbling marks alongside webbed-footed tracks from the Eocene Green River Formation have been reported, and further feeding behaviors have likely been widely overlooked as they may appear similar to some invertebrate traces (i.e. Arenicholites). The birds may not have been taxonomically similar, however, their basic form and behavior suggests that the freshwater water-margin habitat is one of the earliest ones that was occupied by ornithurine birds and fully exploited, while the enantiornithines initially colonized the terrestrial and arboreal environments. The likelihood that the total diversity of birds in this realm has not dramatically increased over time is high, and that study of the modern fauna still has relevance to our understanding of the ancient ones.

Hageman S.A. , Anderson , C., Katuwal, M. and Hoffman, B.L., Department of Natural and Physical Sciences, Park University . APPLICATIONS OF GEOGEBRA TO BIOLOGY AND PALEONTOLOGY. Computer software has become an important aid in the study of fossils. GeoGebra is an award winning software package that is user friendly and provides powerful graphical analysis features. The purpose of this presentation is to demonstrate this freely available software by providing some examples of how we are using it in some interdisciplinary collaborations. Park University has been applying GeoGebra to some of its biological and paleontological collections to record a variety of measurements of specimens and developing complex animated graphics that can be downloaded to Power Point presentations. Two recent studies utilizing GeoGebra include an examination of gastropod borings on clam shells and the classification of a dinosaur track. The borings were plotted to a relative scale, revealing a strong accuracy by gastropods for drilling one specific kill shot on the shell 46% of the time and 79% of the time within a slightly expanded area of the shell. The dinosaur track was easily measured using a scaled image to determine key characteristics such as track length, digit length, and angles between digits. This allowed for comparisons of other dinosaur tracks to reveal several characteristics strongly suggesting it is an above average sized hadrosaur footprint. Other studies in the initial stages involve the data collection from many of the Charles H. Sternberg Red Deer River dinosaur specimens housed at Park University and an analysis of locally collected trace fossils of Asteriacites.

Hoffman, B.L., Department of Natural and Physical Sciences, Park University . Epidemiological Evidence of a Herald Wave of the 1918 Pandemic Influenza Virus in St. Joseph , Missouri . While the 1918/1919 H1N1 influenza pandemic is widely recognized as a “worst-case scenario” for the emergence of new influenza strains, relatively little is known about the origin of the responsible virus and its pattern of spread. Most studies of this virus in the United States rely on temporally and spatially aggregated data. Location-specific studies of the impact of the 1918 pandemic strain in the United States have been confined primarily to large cities on the East Coast or West Coast. In this study, data on pneumonia and influenza fatalities from 1910-1923 have been extracted from death certificates for Saint Joseph, Missouri, a typical mid-sized city in the central United States. An increase in pneumonia and influenza mortality was noted starting in the 1915/1916 influenza season. Initially, increased mortality was observed in infants and the elderly. In February 1918, an age-shift typical of pandemic strains of virus was seen, as the burden of mortality shifted to young adults, a characteristic of the 1918 pandemic virus. These results provide one of the first confirmations of the existence of a “herald wave” of influenza activity in the United States prior to the recognized start of the H1N1 pandemic in Spring 1918. This study is one of very few that measures the impact of 1918/1919 influenza impact in a particular location in the central United States .

Hoffman, B.L. and Hageman , S.A. , Department of Natural and Physical Sciences, Park University . SHARK “TEETH” OF THE FORM GENUS GUNNELLODUS WILIMOVSKY (IDIACANTHUS GUNNELL) REPRESENT STETHACANTHID DENTICLES. In 1933, Frank Gunnell assigned the generic name Idiacanthus to a set of shark “teeth” with a pointed blade and heavy bony base found in Pennsylvanian deposits in Missouri and Kansas . Idiacanthus bellistriatus carried a single blade with striations and ridges; I. cameratus had a single blade with striations only and I. trispinosus had three striated spines. These ichthyoliths are common to the marine shales and limestones of the Missourian and Virgilian series of the Midcontinent region. In 1954, the generic name Gunnellodus was proposed for these remains, as the generic name Idiacanthus was preoccupied by an extant group of marine fishes. Literature review reveals similar remains identified as conodonts with generic names Scolopodus Pander and Multidentodus Harlton are also found in Mississippian as well as Pennsylvanian marine deposits. We show by comparative morphology that Gunnellodus-type ichthyoliths share affinities with denticles of stethacanthid sharks, including Akmonistion zangerli and Stethacanthus altonensis. G. bellistriatus, G. cameratus and Scolopodus are cranial cap and brush denticles, while G. trispinosus and Multidentodus are buccopharyngeal denticles. Also found with these ichthyoliths are stethacanthlike cladodont teeth and tooth whorls. These stethacanthid remains are found in sediments that contain insect cuticle, conodonts and actinopterygian scales, all of which have been found as gut contents of stethacanthids.

Martin, L.D.1 and Merriam, D.2, 1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and 2. Kansas State Geological Survey, University of Kansas . A Labyrinthodont Amphibian from the margin of the Permian Epicontinental Sea in Kansas . A partial skull (KUVP 141976) consisting of most of the upper right tooth row and fragments of the skull roof of a moderate size labyrinthodont amphibian was discovered in a roadcut about 3.2 km south-west of Maple Hill, Wabaunsee County, Kansas. It was found in the Pony Creek Shale Member of the Wood Siding Formation, (Upper Pennsylvanian, Virgilian Stage) just above a thin layer of limestone and a similar shale layer that contained paleoniscoid fishes and \many specimens of the extinct horseshoe crab, Paleolimulus. That particular layer was interpreted as having been deposited in an estuary or tidal flat and we think that the slightly higher horizon that produced the labyrinthodont was similar with perhaps a little less marine influence. It shows that labyrinthodonts inhabited coastal environments away from the coal forest and may have ventured into marine marginal ecologies. The skull was from an individual about the size (estimated 1.5m in body length) and shape of a small alligator, and probably occupied a similar station in the local ecology.

Mickle, K.E., University of Kansas , Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute. THE PROBLEM OF THE ACTINOPTERYGIAN PREOPERCULUM. The preoperculum has been considered an important bone in the evolution of actinopterygian fishes. It has been proposed that there are different configurations of preopercular bones in palaeoniscoids, more advanced subholosteans, and holosteans. Palaeoniscoids are described as the most “primitive,” with a tight association between the preoperculum, maxilla, and palate. It has been hypothesized that this tight association was gradually lost, changing the jaw suspensoria and feeding mechanisms in actinopterygians. A problem with this hypothesis is that past publications provide few examples of the condition of Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Recent fishes and do not fully investigate the diversity of the preoperculum.

To test the strength of this hypothesis, the preopercula of a broad array of fishes have been examined. The results of this review reveal that the conventional wisdom that there is a gradual and progressive change from the “primitive” palaeoniscoid to a more advanced holostean condition is an oversimplification. The preopercular bones of a subset of Paleozoic and Mesozoic fishes will be presented to discuss the diversity of the preoperculum. Results include summaries of the number, shape, and inclination of preopercular bone(s), associations to other cheek bones, and paths of sensory canals. The hypothesis regarding the evolution of the actinopterygian preoperculum will be critiqued. A significant hurdle to this study—the absence of a strong phylogenetic hypothesis of relationships for Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Recent fishes will also be discussed.

Rothschild, B.M.1, Xiaoting, Z.2, Martin, L.D.1, Zhou, Z.3, 1. Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas , 2. Tianyu Natural History Museum , 3. Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. Predator-avoidance behavior in Mesozoic ichthyosaurs. The fossil record provides a unique window to the character of ancient life, transcending strictly anatomic revelations. Diving habits of Mesozoic marine reptiles have been characterized on the basis of a unique pathology (avascular necrosis) produced by decompression syndrome, resulting from deep, prolonged, repetitive dives. Loss of circulation results in death of bone allowing joint surface collapse from the compression forces of swimming. Recognition of decompression syndrome evidences deep diving behavior in mosasaurs, sauropterygians, and turtles. Skeletons of the more fish/dolphin-like marine vertebrates, the Ichthyosauridae, were therefore examined to assess their susceptibility.

Avascular necrosis was observed in 20% of Late Cretaceous to Middle Jurassic ichthyosaurs (Stenopterygius–excepted), but were rare in geologically older specimens. It seems appropriate to make the assessment that Triassic reptiles that dive are either physiologically protected, or the events are rare and insignificant enough to be tolerated. Emergency surfacing due to a threat from a predator may be the most important cause of avascular necrosis for air-breathing divers, with relative frequency of events documenting the risk of encountering a dangerous predator while deeply submerged. Recognition that frequency of avascular necrosis was independent of size in mosasaurs suggests that their damage occurred prior to reaching maturity and that an earlier part of their life involved predator or prey interactions. Evolution of large fast aquatic predators in the Jurassic and in particular the evolution of advanced sharks probably drove the evolution of ichthyosaurs toward the advanced parvipelvians and forced emergency emergence producing such vascular accidents.

Abstracts of the 2009 KAS Paleontology Symposium


KAS-Announce.jpg (42349 bytes)

Sponsored by:

The Kansas Academy of Science


Oceans of Kansas Paleontology

ks-seal.jpg (9985 bytes)

wpe7.jpg (16214 bytes)

cover2.jpg (19527 bytes)

cover2.jpg (26204 bytes)