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Vertebrate Fossil Sites of Florida

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Vertebrate Fossil Sites of Florida

LOVE SITE (also known as LOVE BONE BED)

University of Florida Vertebrate Fossil Locality AL001

location of Love Site

Location: about 1 mile north of Archer, Alachua County, Florida, just off Route 241; 29.5° N, 82.5° W.

Age: late Miocene Epoch; latest Clarendonian Land Mammal Age, about 9.5 to 9 million years old (estimated).

Basis of Age: vertebrate biochronology. The presence of the immigrant taxon Hoplictis (formerly Beckia) and the absence of Hemphillian immigrant taxa, including megalonychid and mylodontid ground sloths and Eurasian carnivores such as bears and machairodonts, indicate the late Clarendonian NALMA (North American Land Mammal Age). Supporting this, the stage of evolution of several mammalian taxa, including species within Nimravidae, Canidae, Mustelidae, Gomphotheriidae, Equidae, and Tayassuidae, matches that of other late Clarendonian sites in North America (Webb et al., 1981; Hulbert, 2005).

Geology: a graded fluvial channel deposit consisting of coarse, cross-bedded phosphatic sands and gravel that fine upwards to orange clays and clayey sands. These fluvial sediments were deposited in into a paleostream channel cut into the Late Eocene Crystal River Formation, a bioclastic limestone unit (Webb et al., 1981).

Depositional Environment: The Love Bone Bed likely represents a single depositional cycle of an ancient stream or small river that ran from north to south. Several different habitats are represented, including estuarine (sharks, fish, marine mammals), swamps and wetlands (alligator, some turtles, gar, waterbirds), and terrestrial (horses, gomphothere, camels, rodents). The latter includes both relatively closed, heavily wooded habitats as well as open prairie or savanna. This suggests that at the time of deposition the Love Site was near sea level in elevation and likely nearshore, receiving fluvial transport of bones from terrestrial and freshwater marsh areas (Webb et al., 1981). Many of the bones and teeth show rounding caused by surface abrasion during fluvial transport, and among terrestrial vertebrates there is a strong bias in favor of larger-bodied species and against small-bodied species (those < 1 kg). There were few cases of articulated or even associated skeletal elements; most were isolated finds.

1975 excavations at Love Site

Figure 1. Initial stages of excavation at the Love Site in July, 1974.

Excavation History and Methods: The site was discovered in an okra field on a farm belonging to the Love Family in 1974. Mr. Ron Love brought the fossilized leg bone of a rhinoceros to the Florida Museum, which prompted University of Florida paleontologists to investigate the site near the town of Archer. First, cores were taken of the site to determine the dimensions of the fossiliferous layer and then the bed was cleared off using a backhoe (Webb et al., 1981). The site was worked nearly continuously for nearly seven years by University of Florida crews until 1981, by which time much of the ancient channel had been excavated in a deep trench. The fossils were mainly recovered through quarrying and, by the end, the Love Site had yielded over 20,000 identifiable specimens. A video made in 1981 about the excavation of the Love Site can be found here: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00079582/00001.

1975 excavations at Love Site

Figure 2. Florida Museum workers quarrying at the Love Bone Bed in 1975. (photo by S.D. Webb)

Comments: The Love Bone Bed was an extremely prolific site, yielding thousands of identifiable bones and teeth. In fossil richness, it is matched among Florida sites only by Thomas Farm and Leisey Shell Pit 1A. Many new species were described using Love material, including a turtle (Jackson, 1978), birds (Becker, 1985; 1986), rodents (Baskin, 1980a; 1986), a felid (Baskin, 1981), procyonids (Baskin, 1982), a nimravid (Baskin, 1981), a mustelid (Baskin, 2005), equids (Hulbert, 1988a), and an artiodactyl (Webb, 1983). In other cases the large samples at the Love Site allowed detailed study and taxonomic revisions of previously poorly known species (Jackson, 1976; Hulbert, 1987; 1988b; 1993). Some taxa from the Love Site remain unstudied, particularly non-mammalian vertebrates and the microfauna. The relatively unique conditions at the site, particularly the large sample sizes of mammalian taxa coupled with rapid deposition over a short time-span, allowed for studies of population dynamics (Hulbert, 1982; Mihlbachler, 2003), social behavior (Mihlbachler, 2005), and community structure (MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990), which are phenomena that can only rarely be studied in the fossil record.

All modern classes of vertebrates can be found at the Love Site, which consist of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals (Webb et al., 1981; MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990). The mammalian fauna consist of at least 45 taxa, but are dominated by terrestrial ungulates (proboscideans, artiodactyls, and perissodactyls), of which 21 species have been identified (MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990). Today, a comparably large number of coexistent ungulate species can only found in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the Love Site ungulates are proposed to have fed mainly on grass and the paleoclimate has been reconstructed as having annual rainy and dry seasons, both of which support a habitat reconstruction similar to a modern African savanna (Hulbert, 1982; MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990). The presence of emydid turtles, alligator, gar, and water birds indicates that the site was near quiet, freshwater habitats, marshes, and estuaries (Webb et al., 1981; MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990).


Baskin, J. A. 1980a. Evolutionary reversal in Mylagaulus (Mammalia, Rodentia) from the Late Miocene of Florida. American Midland Naturalist 104:155-162. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2424967v

Baskin, J. A. 1980b. The generic status of Aelurodon and Epicyon (Carnivora, Canidae). Journal of Paleontology 54:1349-1351. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/1304257

Baskin, J. A. 1981. Barbourofelis (Nimravidae) and Nimravides (Felidae), with a description of two new species from the Late Miocene of Florida. Journal of Mammalogy 62:122-139. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1380483

Baskin, J. A. 1982. Tertiary Procyonidae (Mammalia: Carnivora) of North America. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 2:71-93. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4522882

Baskin, J. A. 1986. The late Miocene radiation of Neotropical sigmodontine rodents in North America. Pp. 287?303 in K. M. Flanagan and J. A. Lillegraven (eds.), Vertebrates, Phylogeny, and Philosophy. University of Wyoming Contributions to Geology, Special Paper 3. http://rmg.geoscienceworld.org/content/24/special_paper_3/287

Baskin, J. A. 2005. Carnivora form the Late Miocene Love Bone Bed of Florida. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 45(4):413-434. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/bulletin/baskinlowres.pdf

Becker, J. J. 1985. Pandion lovensis, a new species of osprey from the late Miocene of Florida. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 98:314?320. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/34648593

Becker, J. J. 1986. A new vulture (Vulturidae: Pliogyps) from the late Miocene of Florida. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 99:502?508. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/34595973

Hulbert Jr., R. C. 1982. Population dynamics of the three-toed horse Neohipparion from the late Miocene of Florida. Paleobiology 8(2):159-167. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2400452

Hulbert Jr., R. C. 1987. Late Neogene Neohipparion (Mammalia, Equidae) from the Gulf Coastal Plain of Florida and Texas. Journal of Paleontology 61:809?830. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/1305291

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. 2005. Late Miocene Tapirus (Mammalia, Perissodactyla) from Florida, with description of a new species, Tapirus webbi. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 45(4):465-494. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/bulletin/hulbertlowres.pdf

Jackson, D. R. 1976. The status of the Pliocene turtles Pseudemys caelata Hay and Chrysemys carri Rose and Weaver. Copeia 1976:655?659. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/1443445

Jackson, D. R. 1978. Evolution and fossil record of the chicken turtle Deirochelys, with a re-evaluation of the genus. Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany 20:35?55.

MacFadden, B. J., and R. C. Hulbert Jr. 1990. Body size estimates and size distribution of ungulate mammals from the Late Miocene Love Bone Bed of Florida. In Body Size in Mammalian Paleobiology: Estimation and Biological Implications, J. Damuth and B. J. MacFadden, eds. Cambridge University Press 337-363.

Mihlbachler, M. C. 2003. Demography of late Miocene rhinoceroses (Teleoceras proterum and Aphelops malacorhinus) from Florida:linking mortality and sociality in fossil assemblages. Paleobiology 29(3):412?428. http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/pdf_files/125/1257354754.pdf

Mihlbachler, M. C. 2005. Linking sexual dimorphism and sociality in rhinoceroses: insights from Teleoceras proterum and Aphelops malacorhinus from the late Miocene of Florida. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 45(4):495?520.

Webb, S. D. 1983. A new species of Pediomeryx from the late Miocene of Florida, and its relationships with the subfamily Cranioceratinae (Ruminantia: Dromomerycidae). Journal of Mammalogy 64:261?276. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/1380556

Webb, S. D., and R. C. Hulbert Jr. 1986. Systematics and evolution of Pseudhipparion (Mammalia, Equidae) from the Late Neogene of the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Great Plains. Pp. 237?272 in K. M. Flanagan and J. A. Lillegraven (eds.), Vertebrates, Phylogeny, and Philosophy. University of Wyoming Contributions to Geology, Special Paper 3.

Webb, S. D., B. J. MacFadden, and J. A. Baskin. 1981. Geology and paleontology of the Love Bone Bed from the Late Miocene of Florida. American Journal of Science 281:513-544. http://www.ajsonline.org/content/281/5/513.citation

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

†Carcharocles megalodon
†Carcharodon hastilis
†Carcharhinus leucas
†Galeocerdo contortus
†Negaprion brevirostris
Rhizoprionodon sp.
†Hemipristis serra
Pristis sp.

Atractosteus sp., cf. A. spatula
Lepiosteus sp.
Amia calva
Megalops sp., cf. M. atlantica
Ictalurus sp.
Centropomus sp.
Lutjanus sp.
Pogonias sp., cf. P. cromis
Labridae, genus and species indeterminate
Lagodon sp., cf. L. rhomboides
Chilomycterus sp.

Siren sp.
Ranidae, genus and species indeterminate

†Pseudemys caelata
†Deirochelys carri
Terrapene sp.
†Apalone sp.
†Hesperotestudo sp.
Macrochelys sp.
Kinosternon sp.
Kinosternidae, genus and species indeterminate
Typhlops? sp.
Heterodon sp.
cf. Thamnophis sp.
cf. Natrix sp.
Lampropeltis sp., cf. L. getulus
cf. Elaphe sp.
cf. Sistrurus sp.
Alligator sp., cf. A. mississippiensis
†Thecachampsa americana

Podicipedidae, genus and species indeterminate
Phalacrocoracidae, genus and species indeterminate
†Anhinga grandis
Phoenicopteridae, genus and species indeterminate
Phoenicopterus sp.
Threskiornithidae, genus and species indeterminate
Ardeidae, genus and species indeterminate
Ciconiidae, genus and species indeterminate
†Pliogyps charon
Anatidae, genus and species indeterminate
Accipitridae, genus and species indeterminate
†Pandion lovensis
Meleagris sp.
Rallidae, genus and species indeterminate
Rallus sp.
Gruidae, genus and species indeterminate
Aramidae, genus and species indeterminate
†Jacana farrandi
Charadriidae, genus and species indeterminate
Passeriformes, genus and species indeterminate

Soricidae, genus and species indeterminate
Talpidae, genus and species indeterminate
Vespertilionidae, genus and species indeterminate
†Hypolagus sp.
†Mylagaulus elassos
†Nothodipoides (Eucastor) planus
Sciuridae, genus and species indeterminate
†Copemys sp.
Cricetidae, genus and species indeterminate
†Abelmoschomys simpsoni
Muridae, genus and species indeterminate
†Epicyon saevus
†Epicyon haydeni
†Aelurodon sp.
cf. Urocyon sp.
†Paranasua biradica
†Arctonasua floridana
†Leptarctus webbi
†Sthenictis lacota
†Hoplictis sp.
†Plionictis sp.
†Barbourofelis loveorum
†Nimravides galiani
†Plithocyon sp.
†Metaxytherium floridanum
†Gomphotherium sp.
†Tapirus webbi
†Teleoceras proterum
†Aphelops malacorhinus
†Neohipparion trampasense
†Hipparion sp.
†Nannippus westoni
†Pseudhipparion skinneri
†Calippus cerasinus
†Calippus elachistus
Cormohipparion ingenuum
†Cormohipparion plicatile
†Protohippus gidleyi
†Tayassuidae, new genus and species
Aepycamelus major
†Procamelus grandis
†Hemiauchenia minima
†Pseudoceras skinneri
†Pediomeryx hamiltoni
†Antiliocapridae, genus and species indeterminate
Cetacea, genus and species indeterminate

Author: Carly L. Manz; Original Date: October 5, 2012
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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