Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Joshua X. Samuels

Committee Members

Blaine W. Schubert, Steven C. Wallace


The Gray Fossil Site (GFS) preserves an early Pliocene sinkhole pond that accumulated a rich flora and vertebrate fauna. Fossils of fish are incredibly common at GFS, representing thousands of specimens recovered to date. Comparison with extant species reveals a depauperate freshwater fish fauna consisting of only two species: Lepomis sp. and Micropterus sp. The absence of fishes that are ubiquitous in modern streams suggests no perennial surface hydrologic connection between the Gray Fossil Site and the nearby Holston River. Limited opportunities for dispersal into the pond and deleterious conditions such as eutrophy and high competition may have resulted in this extremely low diversity. Examination of articulated and partially articulated GFS fish specimens show mild to moderate degrees of post-mortem disarticulation, suggesting slowed decay likely attributable to cool water temperatures and/or anoxic conditions within the hypolimnion. Preliminary examination of osteological thin sections suggests slow growth in GFS fishes.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.