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Vertebrate Fossil Sites of Florida

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Vertebrate Fossil Sites of Florida

I-75 Site

University of Florida Vertebrate Fossil Locality AL018

location of I-75 fossil site

Location: Southwestern Gainesville, Alachua County, Florida, at the intersection of Interstate Highway 75 (I-75) and SR 121 (Williston Road); 29.6° N, 82.4° W.

Age: early Oligocene Epoch; later half of Whitneyan Land Mammal Age. About 29 million years old (estimated).

Basis of Age: vertebrate biochronology (presence of Miohippus, Eutypomys, and Centetodon indicate an early Arikareean age or older, but lack of definitive Arikareean taxa suggest a pre-Arikareean age, while evolutionarily advanced specimens of chiropterans and Miohippus suggest an age very close to the Arikareean; thus, a late Whitneyan age is favored [Czaplewski and Morgan, 2012; Emry et al., 1987]).

Geology: fossils filled in a small, roughly circular area less than 15 feet in diameter and about 6 feet deep filled with dark-brown to black, silty and slightly sandy clay. The sediments were weathered and lacked visible stratification (Patton, 1969).

Depositional Environment: small, shallow sinkhole developed in the late Eocene Ocala limestone.

Excavation History and Methods: Fossil bone was first reported in a roadcut of I-75 by Mervin Kontrovitz, a graduate student in the University of Florida Department of Geology (Patton, 1969). The region was being excavated to pour concrete pilings for an exit from I-75 to the Williston Rd., and thus the sediment was rapidly excavated and screen washed. Collection was expedited by the small size of the sinkhole deposit, and fossils were deposited in the Florida Museum of Natural History. Today the former site resides beneath several feet of asphalt, concrete and road fill (Fig. 1). Thomas H. Patton briefly described the fauna and named the I-75 Local Fauna soon after the site was collected (Patton, 1969), yet most of the fossils from this site have received little further attention in the scientific literature, owing in part to their small sample size and frequently broken condition. Currently the only aspects of the fauna to receive scientific attention are the boid and colubrid snakes (Holman, 1999; Holman and Harrison, 2000, 2001), a natalid bat (Morgan and Czaplewski, 2003), the marsupial Herpetotherium (Hayes, 2005), and most recently the speonycterid bats (Czaplewski and Morgan, 2012).

I-75 locality today

Figure 1. The location of the I-75 fossil site today lies somewhere below all this asphalt, concrete, and fill-dirt.

Comments: While the I-75 Local Fauna is relatively small and poorly studied, it is notable for being the oldest record of terrestrial vertebrates from Florida – particularly from a time when the state was thought to be mostly underwater (Patton, 1969; Hulbert, 2001). The appearance of several large, plains-dwelling taxa such as the equids and the carnivore Daphoenus indicate a connection with the mainland, rather than an isolated island. It is possible that the sharks and fish from the site were introduced later, with reworking of the top-most sediments once ocean water reinvaded this region (Patton, 1969). At the time of its discovery many its species were known only from western North America, thus the I-75 Local Fauna expanded the range of many Oligocene mammals, as well as further establishing ecological connections between Florida and the western Gulf Coast that are well-known in later epochs (Patton, 1969).

References Cited

Czaplewski, N. J., and G. S. Morgan. 2012. New basal noctilionoid bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) from the Oligocene of subtropical North America. Pp. 162-209 in G.F. Gunnell and N. B. Simmons, eds., Evolutionary History of Bats: Fossils, Molecules and Morphology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Emry, R. J., P. R. Bjork, and L. S. Russell. 1987. The Chadronian, Orellan, and Whitneyan North American Land Mammal Ages. Pp. 118-152 in M. O. Woodburne, ed., Cenozoic Mammals of North America: Geochronology and Biostratigraphy. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.

Hayes, F. G. 2005. Arikareean (Oligocene-Miocene) Herpetotherium (Marsupialia, Didelphidae) from Nebraska and Florida. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History. 45(4):335-353.

Holman, J. A. 1999. Early Oligocene (Whitneyan) snakes from Florida (USA), the second oldest colubrid snakes in North America. Acta Zoologica Cracoviensia 42(3):447-454.

Holman, J. A., and D. L. Harrison. 2000. Early Oligocene (Whitneyan) snakes from Florida (USA), a unique booid. Acta Zoologica Cracoviensia 43(1-2):127-134.

Holman, J. A., and D. L. Harrison. 2001. Early Oligocene (Whitneyan) snakes from Florida (USA): Remaining boids, indeterminate colubroids, summary and discussion of the I-75 Local Fauna snakes. Acta Zoologica Cracoviensia 44(1):25-36.

Hulbert, R. C., Jr. 2001. The Fossil Vertebrates of Florida. University Press of Florida: Gainesville, FL. Pp. 198-202. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/vertpaleo/book.htm

Morgan, G. S., and N. J. Czaplewski. 2003. A new bat (Chiroptera: Natalidae) from the early Miocene of Florida, with comments on natalid phylogeny. Journal of Mammalogy 84(2):729–752. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1383917

Patton, T. H. 1969. An Oligocene land vertebrate fauna from Florida. Journal of Paleontology, 43(2):543-546. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/1302330

Faunal List (†=extinct species; *=species no longer living in Florida)

Carcharhinus edwardsi
Galeocerdo alabamensis
Negaprion brevirostris
Rhizoprionodon terraenovae
Hemispristis serra
Isurus desorii
Otodus obliquus
Carcharias cuspidata



Ophisaurus sp.
Peltosaurus sp. (P. floridanus?)
Paleoxantusia sp. Iguania
Floridemys sp.
Calamagras platyspondyla
Geringophis sp.
Geringophis robustus
Ogmophis sp.
Floridaophis auffenbergi
Nebraskophis oligocenicus
Totlandophis americanus
Canatophis alachuaensis

Herpetotherium cf. H. merriami
Centetodon sp.
Centetodon wolffi
Speonycteris aurantiadens
Speonycteris naturalis
†Merycoidodontidae, genus and species indeterminant
Tayasuiidae, genus and species indeterminant
Daphoenus sp.
Eutypomys sp.
Miohippus sp.
†Sirenia, genus and species indeterminant

Author: Paul Morse; Original Date: November 30, 2012
Last Edited by: Richard C. Hulbert Jr.; Last up-dated On: April 1, 2013

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number CSBR 1203222, Jonathan Bloch, Principal Investigator. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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