Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Blaine W. Schubert, Joshua X. Samuels

Committee Members

Steven C. Wallace


Snake vertebrae are common in the fossil record, whereas cranial remains are generally fragile and rare. Consequently, vertebrae are the most commonly studied fossil element of snakes. However, identification of snake vertebrae can be problematic due to extensive variation. This study utilizes 2-D geometric morphometrics and canonical variates analysis to 1) reveal variation between genera and species and 2) classify vertebrae of modern and fossil eastern North American Agkistrodon and Crotalus. The results show that vertebrae of Agkistrodon and Crotalus can reliably be classified to genus and species using these methods. Based on the statistical analyses, four of the fossil viperid vertebrae from Hickory Tree Cave were assigned to Crotalus horridus, one to C. adamanteus, and another to Agkistrodon piscivorus. The potential presence of the latter two species could indicate that the deposit is from a warm period during the Quaternary such as a Pleistocene interglacial or Holocene warm interval.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.