Life along the shores
of the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Sea
© 2011-2016 by Mike Everhart
Page created 05/10/2011 - Last updated 12/30/2016
remains of Cretaceous crocodiles are rare in Kansas, mostly because much of the state was completely underwater much of the time,
but some remains have been found here. The first one, Hyposaurus vebbii, was described
from a single cervical vertebra recovered during the construction of a water
well in the Dakota Sandstone near
|LEFT: E.D. Cope
(1872, 1875) reported the first crocodile from Kansas, Hyposaurus
vebbii, based on a single cervical vertebra recovered from from a well
being dug in the Dakota Formation near Brookville, Kansas. It was
collected and sent to him by a friend, William Webb of Topeka,
named in his honor.
Cope's (1872, repeated in Williston
1898) description of the vertebra: “An
anterior cervical vertebra presents the following characteristics. It is
that one in which the parapophysis occupies a position opposite the lower
third of the vertical diameter. Its centrum is stout in form; the
articular faces but little concave; the posterior a little more so than
the anterior. The anterior is almost regularly hexagonal; the posterior
subround, a little deeper than wide. The inferior surface possesses a
strong, obtuse, median carina, which disappears in front of the posterior
margin. Anteriorly, it terminates in a short, obtuse hypapophysis. The
suture of the neural arch is very coarse. Surface of the bone smooth. … As compared with the H. rogersii, of the
|LEFT: Williston (1894) reported a crocodile vertebra from the Kiowa
Williston's (1894, 1898)
single vertebra, wanting the neural arch, but otherwise well preserved, I
refer somewhat doubtfully to Hyposaurus or a closely allied form. It has the articular surfaces
nearly flat, with the rims sharp; the body is gently concave on the sides
and below, from in front back, and with strić near each rim for about
half an inch. The surface elsewhere is smooth and even, without venous
foramina. A transverse section through the middle would give the greater
part of an elliptical figure, with the lower side somewhat flattened. Only
the base of the pedicels is present, and there is no indication of a
sutural union. Springing from them, or possibly from the body itself
produced above to meet the arch, there is, on each side, a stout
transverse process, the base only of which is present, but which appears
to be short. In shape and appearance the centrum agrees well with one of Hyposaurus
kingi was described by Mehl (1941; see also Lane 1946) from the Dakota Formation from
"west of Salina. The specimen was last reported (1946) to be in the
collection of Kansas Wesleyan University of Salina, Kansas. The current whereabouts of the specimen is unknown. A second specimen (a single scute; KUVP 9971) was reported
by Vaughn (1956) from along the Smoky Hill River in Ellsworth County. It came
from either the upper Kiowa or lower Dakota formations.
|Mehl was able to make a cast of the last exposed dorsal
LEFT: Dakotasuchus kingi Mehl. A-C anterior, left lateral, and posterior views respectively of the last dorsal vertebra. (Mehl, 1941, Figure 1)
|LEFT: Dakotasuchus kingi Mehl. Diagrammatic figures of pelvic girdle and ventral ribs. A. ventral view of pelvis, ischia foreshortened and ilia omitted, showing the relationship of “pubic guard” and the position of ventral ribs. B. left lateral view of pelvis to show development of sacral ribs and pubis. (Mehl, 1941, Figure 3)|
|LEFT: Dakotasuchus kingi Mehl. A-C lateral views of right scapula,
right coracoid, and direct posterior view of right scapula and coracoid
(Mehl, 1941, Figure 2)
|LEFT: Dakotasuchus kingi Mehl. Sketches showing details of dorsal
and ventral armor. A. left lateral view of dorsal plates (anterior end
toward the top) with underlap indicated by dotted outlines. B.
arrangement of plates of ventral shield (anterior end toward the top) with
transverse section, C, at mid-length. D, E, and F are cross sections of
plates 1, 9, and 18 respectively, of the dorsal shield.
(Mehl, 1941, Plate II)
kingi Mehl. Photographs of the concretion containing
the type material of the genus and species. A. dorsal view showing the
impression and some of the plates of the dorsal armor. B. ventral view
showing the impression of the ventral shield and parts of pectoral and
pelvic girdles. In each case the anterior end is up. (Mehl,
1941, Plate III)
Note that casts of some of the vertebrae from the specimen are currently curated in the Texas Memorial Museum (Austin, TX) as TMM-41379).
ANOTHER LARGE CROCODILE FROM THE DAKOTA FORMATION:
|LEFT: This is a dorsal view of the posterior portion of
the the skull of a large crocodile tentatively identified as Terminonaris sp. (FHSM VP-2079) from the Dakota Formation of Russell County, Kansas. It was discovered in 1959 by Timmy Harbaugh of
Russell, and collected by Myrl Walker.
RIGHT: Two of the limb bones of FHSM VP-2079. Other remains include vertebrae and possible elements of the pectoral or pelvic girdles.
CROCODILE REMAINS FROM THE KIOWA SHALE:
|LEFT: FHSM VP-2989 - A portion of the lower jaw (dentary)
and two patches of dermal scutes from a crocodile in the Kiowa Formation
of Clark County, Kansas. The specimen was collected by Myrl Walker.
proximal end of an unusual bone (KUVP 1199) collected by S.W.
Williston (1894) from the Kiowa Formation (Clark County):
Williston (1903) later described KUVP 1199 as the femur of a new species of giant pterosaur ("Apatomerus mirus"). It is most likely the upper end of a plesiosaur propodial.
MORE RECENT DISCOVERIES:
recently, Joe Beamon, a Fort Hays graduate
student, reported (1999) crocodile teeth and scutes from a quarry in the Early
Cretaceous Kiowa Formation (McPherson County) in his 1999 Masters thesis.Since then, I have collected crocodile teeth from the same shale quarry and
teeth, scutes and bone fragments(?) from the Dakota Formationnear
|LEFT: A broken crown of a crocodile tooth (FHSM
VP-13544) collected by Joseph Beamon from the Kiowa Formation in McPherson
RIGHT: Two crowns of crocodile teeth (FHSM VP-13547) collected by Joseph Beamon from the Kiowa Formation in McPherson County.
|LEFT: Four crowns of crocodile teeth (FHSM
VP-13548) collected by Joseph Beamon from the Kiowa Formation in McPherson
RIGHT: Two crowns of crocodile teeth (FHSM VP-13559) collected by Joseph Beamon from the Kiowa Formation in McPherson County.
|LEFT: A small crocodile scute (FHSM VP-15723) collected
by Keith Ewell in 2004 from the Dakota Formation in Russell County.
RIGHT: Fragments of crocodile scutes (FHSM VP-13554) collected by Joseph Beamon and others in 1998 from the Kiowa Formation in McPherson County, Kansas. A large number of small fragments of crocodile teeth were also collected.
|LEFT: An well-polished crocodile scute collected by
Keith Ewell in 2004 from the Dakota Formation in Russell County. Many of
the bones, scutes and teeth found in this part of the Dakota Formation
were worn smooth by abrasion from the river or beach sand.
RIGHT: Two crowns of crocodile teeth (FHSM VP-15724) collected by Keith Ewell in 2004 from the Dakota Formation in Russell County.
|LEFT: Four views of a small crocodile tooth
collected from the Dakota Formation, Russell County, Kansas collected by
Keith Ewell in 2005. More
RIGHT: A crocodile tooth (FHSM VP-2250) collected from the Dakota Formation in 1967, still embedded embedded in the iron-stained, sandy matrix.
rostrum of Terminonaris cf. T. browni Osborn, 1904 (FHSM
VP-4387) in dorsal and ventral views from the Fairport Chalk Member (Middle
Turonian), Carlile Shale,
RIGHT: Possible crocodile bone fragments collected by Keith Ewell in 2004. from the Dakota Formation, Russell County, Kansas.
In 2007, Kenshu Shimada and David Parris reported on the snout (above) of a long-snouted crocodyliform (Terminonaris) from the Fairport Chalk (Carlile Formation) of Russell County. This is an unusual specimen because the snout came from a shore-dwelling crocodile, but it was found in marine sediments (chalk) deposited far off-shore. It is also the only known crocodile from the the Carlile Formation. The most likely explanation was that the bloated carcass floated out to sea where it fell apart and was buried. This genus was originally named Teleorhinusbut that name was pre-occupied (See Wu,, et al., 2001).
J.C. 1999. Depositional environment and fossil biota of a thin clastic unit of
the Kiowa Formation, Lower Cretaceous (Albian), McPherson County, Kansas. Unpublished MS Thesis,
University, Hays, KS, 97 pp.
Cope, E.D. 1872. On the
geology and paleontology of the Cretaceous strata of Kansas. Annual Report of the
Geological Survey of the Territories 5:318-349.
E.D. 1875. The Vertebrata of the Cretaceous formations of the West.
M.J. 2004. First record of the hybodont shark genus, “Polyacrodus”
sp., (Chondrichthyes; Polyacrodontidae) from the Kiowa Formation (Lower
M.J. 2011. Occurrence of the hybodont shark genus Meristodonoides (Chondrichthyes;
Hybodontiformes) in the Cretaceous of Kansas.
Everhart, M.J. 2016.
William E. Webb – Civil War correspondent, railroad land baron, town founder,
Kansas legislator, adventurer, fossil collector, author. Kansas Academy of
Science, Transactions 119(2):179-192. (Hyposaurus vebbi).
Garcia, W.J. 1999. Teleorhinus (Crocodylimorpha) from the Dakota Formation (Cretaceous) of Kansas, with a discussion of its paleoecology. Unpublished Masters Thesis, Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas, 97 pp.
H.H. 1946. A survey of the fossil vertebrates of
Lee, Y.-N. 1997. The Archosauria from the Woodbine Formation (Cenomanian) in Texas. Journal of Paleontology 71(6):1147-1156.
Liggett, G.A. 1997. The Beckerdite local biota (Early Hemphillian) and the first Tertiary occurrence of a crocodilian from Kansas. Kansas Academy of Science, Transactions 100(3-4):101-108.
Mehl, M.G. 1934. Crocodilian remains Dakota sandstone of western Kansas. Proceedings of the Geological Society of America. (Meeting abstract, 1933, p. 368).
M.G. 1941. Dakotasuchus kingi, a crocodile from the Dakota of Kansas. Denison
Schwimmer, D.R. 2002. King of the
Crocodylians - The Paleobiology of Deinosuchus. Indiana University Press, 220 pages.
K. and Parris. D.C. 2007. A long-snouted Late Cretaceous crocodyliform, Terminonariscf. T. browni, from the Carlile Shale (Turonian) of
P.P. 1956. A second specimen of the Cretaceous crocodile Dakotasuchusfrom Kansas. Kansas
Academy of Science, Transactions 59(3):379-381.
Williston, S.W. 1898. Crocodiles. The University Geological Survey of Kansas, Part IV, 4:75-78, pl. 9.
Williston, S.W. 1894. On various vertebrate remains from the lowermost Cretaceous of Kansas. Kansas University Quarterly 3(1):1-4, pl. I.
Williston, S.W. 1903. On the osteology of Nyctosaurus (Nyctodactylus), with notes on American pterosaurs. Field Museum Publications (Geological Series ) 2(3):125-163, 2 figs., pls. XL-XLIV. (includes description of Apatomerus mirus, KUVP 1199)
Wu, X.-C., Russell, A.P. and Cumbaa, S.L. 2001. Terminonaris(Archosauria: Crocodyliformes): new material from