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B. F. Mudge

Rare forms of fish in Kansas.

Kansas Academy of Science, Transactions 3:121-122 (1874)

Copyright © 2003-2009 by Mike Everhart

ePage created 09/17/2003:  Updated 07/13/2009



Left: Tooth of Agassizodus cf. A. variablis from Wabaunsee Co. KS: found by K. Ewell

Wherein Professor Mudge describes the remains of two fossil fish from the Pennsylvanian of eastern Kansas. The first was identified as a jaw plate and teeth of Agassizodus, a primitive shark from the "coal measures" near Osage City in Osage County, Kansas. Mudge sent the specimen to Prof. Orestes H. St. John of the Illinois Geological Survey and an engraving of it was included in Volume VI of Geological Survey of Illinois (1875, Plate VIII) to illustrate similar fossils found in that State. In the First Biennial Report Geology of Kansas (1878), Mudge indicated that "the jaw was nearly twenty-eight inches, which would indicate a total length of the fish from fifteen to twenty feet."

Mudge was also the first to discover the primitive Late Cretaceous swordfish, Protosphyraena in the chalk of western Kansas. Mudge sent several specimens to E. D. Cope in 1873 and 1874.  Cope named them Erisichthe nitida, E. gladius and E. perniciosa.  At least fourteen other specimens (YPM 42152, 42200, 42285, 42137, 42138, etc.) were apparently collected by Mudge in 1874 from Ellis and Rooks counties and sent to O. C. Marsh at Yale University.

                                SEVENTH ANNUAL MEETING.              121






     About a year ago, there were sent to Ron Alfred Gray, of Topeka, two fragments of fish jaw, without any statement. of where they were found. The singular and unusual appearance of the teeth attracted my attention, and gave me not a little study to fix their relation to other fossils. Being at Osage City, soon after, I procured two similar specimens, and learned that those of Topeka were from the same locality. The jaws were from a Cestraciont Selachian - entirely new to science. It is well known that the shark tribe, to which these belong, have no solid bones or any solid substance in the body, except the teeth; and consequently the latter are the only parts of the body ever fossilized, or which now remain to give us a knowledge of their structure and habits. As the jaws are cartilaginous, when the animal dies the ligaments holding the teeth together decay, and they become separate, and are not found in regular position. In the present case they are found in their natural and regular position. The jaws must have become imbedded in a firm clay, which retained the teeth together, after the cartilage decayed. The teeth being palatal, or pavement, covered the whole surface of the mouth, instead of being arranged in rows at the edge of the jaws, and we now have them in their natural arrangement. Many of the Cestracionts have no order in the position of their teeth; but in this specimen the rows are very regular, and must have numbered five hundred and sixty (560) in a single jaw. The largest teeth - two and a half inches in basal length -are found in the center of the mouth, and diminish in size as they approach the front; and the teeth also lessen in number toward the sides of the mouth. The best specimen contained over four hundred teeth in excellent order and preservation. A portion of one side of the jaw was gone, but the regular position of the remaining teeth was such that the number and situation of the missing one hundred and sixty ( 160) were easily calculated.

     Knowing the value and importance of the specimen, immediately wrote to Prof. 0. St. John, who makes a specialty of the carboniferous fishes, in the museum of Cambridge, under Agassiz. He requested a specimen for study. He writes me that the jaw is remarkable, in showing teeth so unlike in different rows that paleontologists, w hen finding them separately, have described the teeth now in one as belonging to two genera and three species. He

 122               KANSAS ACADEMY OF SCIENCE.

also adds that the lamented Agassiz [who died in 1873]stated on one occasion that if ever a perfect jaw of these ancient, extinct Cestracionts should be discovered, it would be found that several species now separated constitute but one. Thus ever true to nature was this great naturalist. He finds that these Cestraciont jaws throw much light on the earliest fossil fish, and the lowest type of fish of the present day. The affinities in this case are so different from what was previously known, that he has considered it a new genus and named it after Prof. Agassiz - Agazodus. [Agassizodus variabilis]

     The most remarkable species of fish which we have found, the present season, are of a genus new to me, and I think to science. They are armed with a long, strong weapon at the extremity of the upper jaw, something like that of a sword-fish, but round and pointed and composed of strong fibres. The jaws are provided with three kinds of teeth. On the outer edge is a row of large, flat, cutting teeth, somewhat resembling those of a shark. Inside, and placed irregularly, are small, blunt teeth; while in the back portion of the palate is the third set- small, sharp and needle-like in shape, forming a pavement. The jaws are also fibrous, like the snout. There are three species of this genus. Prof. Marsh has them for critical scientific examination. [See Protosphyraena page]


agassiza.jpg (19424 bytes) Left: Detail from portion of Plate VIII (St. John and Worthen, 1875) showing the Agassizodus corrugatus jaw plate found in Osage County, Kansas.

Below: An excerpt from St. John, O. A., and  H. Worthen, 1875, describing the same specimen:




Genus AGASSIZODUS, St. J. and W.

Lophodus, Newberry and Worthen, 1870, Ill. Rep. Vol. IV, p. 360; not Lophodus Romanowsky, 1864.

     Late in the autumn of 1873, one of the writers was favored with a communication from Prof. B. F. Mudge, Director of the Geological Survey of Kansas, in reference to the discovery of the remains of a

312                        PALÆONTOLOGY OF ILLINOIS

remarkable fish, consisting of a part of the jaw preserving about three hundred teeth in their natural position, and which was obtained from Upper Coal Measures strata in Osage county, Kansas. Subsequently, or late in the following January (1874,) Mr. Springer, while passing through Topeka, chanced to come upon another specimen, which he kindly forwarded to Cambridge, the examination of which, together with the fact that the latter specimen was derived from the same locality as reported by Prof. Mudge, led us to suspect that the two specimens might prove to be fragments of one and the same individual  -- an inference which was most conclusively confirmed not long thereafter on bringing the two specimens together. The former proved to be about two-thirds the posterior portion of what appears to be the left ramus of the mandible or lower jaw, the latter apparently completing the anterior prolongation of the ramus, besides showing along the inner margin, though much displaced by compression, a series of teeth belonging to five or six of the anterior rows of the opposite ramus. But the posterior position of the right ramus has been broken away, and it is apparent only a few teeth belonging to consecutive rows from the symphysis backward remain of that constituted this side of the mandible.



vp55215a.jpg (14199 bytes) Left and Right: Two views of 4 teeth of Campodus (Agassizodus) corrugatus teeth in natural articulation from University of Kansas collection (KUVP 55215). Found by R. E. Fox in 1910 in the "Coal measures."

Below: A second, articulated specimen of "Campodus" found in the Pennsylvanian of Jefferson County, KS. (KU collection, found by J. Savage)

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campod1a.jpg (9209 bytes) campod2a.jpg (8166 bytes) campod3a.jpg (9604 bytes)


Mudge, B. F., 1874. Rare forms of fish in Kansas. Kansas Acad. Sci. Trans. 3:121-122 (Agassizodus tooth plate)

St. John, O. A. and H. Worthen. 1875. Palæontology: Descriptions of fossil fishes. Geology and Palæontology, Part 2, Section 1, Geological Survey of Illinois, 6:245-532, i-vi, pl. 1-22.