Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Program

Biology

Date of Award

5-2009

Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Blaine W. Schubert

Committee Members

Thomas F. Laughlin, Steven C. Wallace, James I. Mead

Abstract

Screening efforts at the Gray Fossil Site, Washington County, Tennessee, have yielded a unique and diverse salamander fauna for the southern Appalachian Mio-Pliocene; including at least five taxa from three modern families (Ambystomatidae, Plethodontidae, and Salamandridae) supporting the woodland-pond interpretation of the site. All specimens represent the earliest record of their respective families in the Appalachian Mountains; with the Notophthalmus sp. vertebrae being the only Mio-Pliocene skeletal fossil known for the family Salamandridae in North America. Three types of plethodontid salamander are present, with one type representing the earliest known desmognathine. The desmognathine fossils lend credence to the 'Appalachian' origin of the clade in the Mio-Pliocene. The GFS salamander fauna is predominated by plethodontids; competition is inferred by the presence of several similarly large-sized taxa and is invoked to explain the presence of neotenic individuals in an otherwise amicable terrestrial environment.

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Copyright

Copyright by the authors.

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