Florida Museum of Natural History

Vertebrate Paleontology

Vertebrate Fossil Sites of Florida

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Vertebrate Fossil Sites of Florida


University of Florida Vertebrate Fossil Localities AL028M, AL059Hh, AL060, AL068, AL097, AL098, AL099, AL100, AL102, AL107, AL108, AL111, AL113, AL128, AL140, AL146, AL149, AL152, AL156, AL157, and AL158

location of Gainesville Creeks

Location: Most sites are in the northwestern region of Gainesville, Alachua County, Florida, in a region bound by NW 13th Street on the east, by NW 43rd Street on the west, by NW 8th Avenue on the south, and by NW 53rd Avenue on the north. Hogtown, Gainesville High School, Possum, and Rattlesnake creeks have produced the majority of known specimens. However a few sites are located outside this region, including creeks on the University of Florida campus and Little Hatchet Creek in northeast Gainesville.

Age: late Miocene Epoch; early Hemphillian Land Mammal Age (Hemphillian 1), about 8 to 9 million years old (estimated).

Basis of Age: vertebrate biochronology. Based on a characteristic suite of species of equids that compare most favorably with those from the McGehee Farm and Haile 19A sites, whose early Hemphillian age is well constrained (Tedford et al., 2004; Hulbert and Whitmore, 2006).

Geology: Phosphatic sands and clays referred to the Coosawhatchie Formation of the Hawthorn Group (Scott, 1988).

Depositional Environment: A shallow, nearshore marine environment based on very abundant fossils of marine animals such as sharks, rays, cetaceans, and dugongs. Although most specimens are isolated and frequently waterworn or broken, a few complete, articulated skeletons of dugongs and small cetaceans suggest a low energy depositional environment. Terrestrial late Miocene vertebrates are relatively rare, and consist mostly of isolated horse teeth.

Excavation History and Methods: Collection of vertebrate fossils from creek beds and banks in the Gainesville region dates back to at least the 1920s. No large-scale, professional excavations have ever been done. Most specimens in the FLMNH collection were donated by avocational or amateur collectors. The Florida Museum of Natural History has about 600 specimens in its collection from the Gainesville Creeks.

Comments: Small creeks in the Gainesville area flow through and erode away sediments of a mix of ages, including early Miocene, late Miocene, and Pleistocene. Most fossils are recovered from modern stream deposits, especially after heavy rains. The bones of modern animals, including raccoon, possum, and domestic cat, as well as discarded items from human meals (chicken bones, BBQ ribs, etc.) are also present, but can usually be distinguished from the true fossils by their unmineralized condition. Fossils of late Miocene age are the most common, especially shark teeth and partial ribs of the extinct dugong Metaxytherium. Such fossils have been found at least 25 different localities in the Gainesville region. Those interested in going fossil collecting in the Gainesville Creeks should be aware that it is illegal to so within the boundaries of county parks, or even to enter the creeks within a park with the intent of walking the creek bed outside a park boundary. You should also not cross private property to enter the creeks without permission of the owner. Many areas have been overcollected, and today produce only small shark teeth, not the megalodon and three-toed horse teeth that were more common a few decades ago. A useful map of the Gainesville Creeks put out by the city is available for downloading.

Most of the fossils found in the Gainesville Creeks have minimal scientific value. Larger samples of the same species have been found in the Peace River and the phosphate mines of Polk and surrounding counties. Likewise, better and more numerous specimens of the same species of land vertebrates can be found in the major late Miocene quarry sites in the western part of Alachua County, such as the Love Bone Bed, McGehee Farm, and Haile 19A. For that reason the specimens of from the Gainesville Creeks have received relatively little scientific attention. There are a couple of notable exceptions, such as a nearly complete skeleton of Metaxytherium floridanum found in the bank of a small creek near Gainesville High School. Also, the Gainesville Creeks is one of the few places in Florida to produce specimens of the extinct leatherback seaturtle Psephophorus.


Domning, D. P. 1988. Fossil Sirenia of the West Atlantic and Caribbean region. I. Metaxytherium floridanum Hay. 1922. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 8:395-126. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4523227

Hulbert Jr., R. C. 1988a. Callipus and Protohippus (Mammalia, Perissodactyla, Equidae) from the Miocene (Barstovian-Early Hemphillian) of the Gulf Coastal Plain. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 32:221-340. http://ufdcweb1.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc/?b=UF00099410

Hulbert Jr., R. C. 1988b. Cormohipparion and Hipparion (Mammalia, Perissodactyla, Equidae) from the Late Neogene of Florida. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 33(5):229-338. http://ufdcweb1.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc/?b=UF00099409

Hulbert Jr., R. C. 1993. Late Miocene Nannippus (Mammalia, Perissodactyla) from Florida, with a description of the smallest hipparionine horse. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 13:350?366. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/4523517

Hulbert Jr., R. C., and F. C. Whitmore, Jr. 2006. Late Miocene mammals from the Mauvilla local fauna, Alabama. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 46(1):1-28. http://ufdcweb1.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc/?b=UF00087413

Scott, T. M. 1988. The lithostratigraphy of the Hawthorn Group (Miocene) of Florida. Florida Geological Survey Bulletin 59:1-148.

Tedford, R. H. et al. 2004. Mammalian biochronology of the Arikareean through Hemphillian interval (late Oligocene through early Pliocene epochs). Pp. 169-231 in M. O. Woodburne, ed., Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic Mammals of North America, Biostratigraphy and Biochronology. Columbia University Press, New York.

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

†Carcharocles megalodon
†Carcharodon hastilis
Carcharhinus spp.
†Galeocerdo aduncus
†Galeocerdo contortus
Negaprion brevirostris
Alopias vulpias
†Hemipristis serra
Pristis sp.
Aetobatis sp.
Rhinoptera sp.

Esox sp.
Sphyraena barracuda
Pogonias sp.

†Psephophorus sp.
†Apalone sp.
†Hesperotestudo alleni
†Thecachampsa americana

†Puffinis micraulax

†cf. Thinobadistes segnis (the one known specimen may instead be a Pleistocene Paramylodon)
†Epicyon sp.
†Metaxytherium floridanum
†Neohipparion trampasense
†Nannippus westoni
†Pseudhipparion skinneri
†Calippus hondurensis
†Calippus elachistus
Cormohipparion ingenuum
†Cormohipparion plicatile
†cf. Hipparion sp.
†Pomatodelphis inaequalis
†Pomatodelphis bobengi
†cf.Delphinodon mento

Author: Richard C. Hulbert Jr.; Original Date: August 7, 2013
Last Edited by: Richard C. Hulbert Jr.; Last up-dated On: October 17, 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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