FRIENDS OF THE GRAY
FOSSIL SITE NEWSLETTER
Volume 1, Number 2 Sept 2001
President: Maybeth Peterson Board of Directors: Lydia Sinemus, Secretary: V. Collins Chew Dr. Charles Bartlett, Larry Bristol, Vice President: Lusetta Jenkins Robert E. Whittemore, Tara Hinkle Treasurer: Anne Whittemore Dorothy Humpf, Four officers
REPORT ON APPALACHIAN REGIONAL FAIR,
by Maybeth Peterson, President
The Fair was really a great success for us, as many very interested people visited the display. The overall feeling of visitors was quite positive and very supportive of anything that might possibly get done at the site. Many were inte-rested in helping at the site. Fair Week began for us on August 16 when several from the Board went to the fairgrounds to set up the display. Those who participated in the set up were Lusetta Jenkins, Anne Whittemore, Collins Chew and his grandson Chris (from Oregon), Maybeth Peterson, her daughter Erika and granddaughters Chelsea, Katie and Linnea (of Montreal, Quebec, Canada). The children were thrilled by a hands on experience as Collins allowed them to help set up the fossils.
One of our members, JoAnne Bucher, had done a wonderful painting depicting many of the different animals whose bones have already been found at the site. She loaned the painting to us for display at the Fair. Framed with ferns we felt it was a drawing point of the whole display.
On opening night, August 17, of the Fair, two of our members, John Andes and Wanda Bennett, volunteered to be at the display to answer any questions that might be asked. Collins Chew was at the display on the 18th, 22nd & 25th to give brief lectures and also answer questions. Mr. Chew brought some of the fossils that he uses for his lectures in the community allowing people to actually touch and hold them. This was an exceptional experience for those who were fortunate to be there at the same time.
Others who participated in manning the booth were Lydia Sinenus on August 19, Lusetta Jenkins on the 20th, Robert & Anne Whittemore on August 21, Maybeth Peterson on the 23rd and Mildred Kozsuch on August 24.
MANY THANKS to all those who worked so hard to have make this project a great success. Next year we will be even more prepared and will hopefully have some significant information to share.
NO WORK AT THE SITE THIS SUMMER - HOW COME?
The main reason for no activity at the Gray Site is because there was no funding forthcoming. Nick Fielder, State Archeologist, alerted researchers this summer that a $250,000 grant for research and development of the site had been struck from the States budget.
Now, if wed like to support the State income tax.....
University of Tennessee researchers have already applied for a National Geographic grant which will take about eight months to process.
This Friends group is looking for a person interested in Fund Raising. This is the avenue we expect to take to support the development of the
After the Fair set up, we all realized that there are several positions which should be filled immediately by YOU, the members!
We need someone who will write letters, fill out applications for funds, who will be aware of and seek out funds and donations that we might apply for - i.e., a Fund Raiser.
We also need a person who will keep track of events and speaking engagements in which the members participate. This person would be an Events Coordinator. This person will keep a list of the events that the Friends participate in and will, in cases such as the Fair, call ahead to find out what is provided at the site, what materials we need to bring, directions to site, etc. Also, this person will make a list of all the speaking engagements and other programs that have already been given.
next MEMBERSHIP MEETING is... OPEN HOUSE FOR
Events Coming Up
September 17 - Anne goes to American Association of University Women in Kingsport.
September 22 - Kingsport Rock & Mineral Club will show some fossils at a display at the Fort Henry Mall.
September 29 - Festival at the Exchange Place, Kingsport - See Collins Chew if you can help.
October 6 - Collins doing a presentation in Bristol
October 2001 --- January 2002
Display at the Hands On! Museum in Johnson City.
January 2002 - Anne speaks at Wilderness Wildlife Week, Pigeon Forge.
If you are in a group which would like to have a program, also check with Dr. Wallace at ETSU.
TENNESSEE CONSERVATIONIST September/October 2001 issue has an excellent article about the Gray Site by Nick Fielder and Harry Moore. Nick has worked with the editorial staff to allow us to purchase copies of the issue at half price and then resell them for profit. You might wish to purchase one or several for your family and friends.
The Bylaws are finally printed and ready for members to pick up. See Anne at the meeting.
According to Nick Fielder, who spoke at the Roan Mountain Fall Naturalist Rally on September 8, the crocodilian-like reptile has been identified positively as an alligator. Also, he mentioned that sunfish had been identified (possibly food for the alligator?).
GRAY FOSSIL SITE
By Martin Kohl, Geologist
TDEC, Division of Geology
reprinted by permission of TDEC
from Volume 13 & 14, No. 1, May 2001
The Gray fossil site is located in Washington County near the commu-nity of Gray, Tennessee. Tennessee Dept. of Transportation geologist, Larry Bolt, first noticed the unusual geology in excavations during realignment and widening of State Route 75. No one in his office or on the construction crews had seen anything like it anywhere in the region. He brought samples of the black and gray layered clays to the Tennessee Division of Geologys Knoxville office, which led to a co-operative excursion May 31, 2000, before bulldozers removed any more of the material.
That visit led to the initial discovery of bones and fragments by the author, who was searching more for fossil aquatic life. Other participants (Larry Bolt, Peter Lemiszki, and Robert Price) recovered additional bone specimens within minutes. The rest of the day, after another stop, and the long drive home were spent discussing the sites origin and the stories it might have to tell. The bedrock setting suggested a karst feature such as a sinkhole pond, while laminated clays, with what appeared to be glacial dropstones, hinted at glaciation. Gravels and fore-set bedding required a fluvial con-nection, and the fractures and faults suggested slumping, compaction, or maybe even a record of earthquake movements.
The author wishes to thank Peter Lemiszki, Robert Price and Larry Bolt for their assistance and cooperation, the Division of Geology for license to work on this project, and Paul Parmalee at the University of Tennessee McClung Museum for his help in identifying some of the bones soon after their discovery.
The site is located in the Valley-and-Ridge province in upper East Ten-nessee. It forms a low knoll, the top of which stood nearly 30 meters above the adjacent drainage, prior to excavation. Subsequent drilling by the Department of Transportation has delineated an area at least 220 meters long, about 100 meters wide, and underlain by up to 36 meters of gray and black clays. Where well-defined, the boundaries of the deposit are abrupt and suggest a steep-sided erosional feature in the bedrock.
The fossils occur in a deposit primarily of layered black, gray, white, and buff-colored clay and silt. Most layers show normally graded bedding on the scale of 1-10 mm. The dark clays are intermixed with lenses and layers of chert gravel, sand-sized material, and dolomite fragments. Within the dark clays there are a number of large (up to car-sized) boulders or blocks of dolomite. The dark clays also seem to contain the majority of the bones.
When fresh, the clays have the property of turning from grayish-brown (5YR 3/2) to brownish-black (5YR 2/1) within two minutes of exposure to air, eventually approaching very dark-gray (N 2.5). This stands out in sharp contrast to typical residual reddish clay soil that develops over carbonate bedrock in this region.
The layering is deformed, dipping inwards up to 45 degrees towards a central axis, likely due to the removal of material from below, or to compaction. Small mesoscopic normal fault planes and extension fractures, iron-stained near the surface, are common, and some folding is present. There are several thin cemented layers that show discrete brittle fracturing due to extension. The fractures are filled in with the more ductile clay.
Bedrock near the site is northwest-dipping Lower Ordovician age dolomite of the upper part of the Knox Group. A syncline axis exposes Middle Ordo-vician Lenoir Limestone a few hundred meters to the northwest. Older lime-stone of the Lower Ordovician Chepultepec Formation is exposed to the southeast. These units form karstic terrains throughout the region, and younger Pleistocene-age bones have been found in a number of caves as well. Ancient sinkholes have also preserved clays and lignites in this region, but this is the only such deposit known with animal bones.
Aquatic invertebrates include ostracods, snails (probable planobidae, possible viviparidae), and small fingernail clams (sphaeriidae), occurring in many layers, Few fish remains have been found.
The lower light-gray layered clays show black leaf imprints while the dark layers contain abundant macerated organic debris, as well as flattened, carbonized, but still flexible sticks, carbonized acorns, nuts, and other seeds, and compressed pieces of various kinds of wood, much of it brown in color. Charcoal is also present, the rigidity of which preserved much of the structural geometry and porosity of the wood.
Vertebrate bones recovered during and immediately after earth-moving operations have been primarily tapir, also tortoises. Some crocodilian remains have been encountered, as have tusk fragments, a partial jaw, humerus, and carpal bones of a rhinoceros, and frogs. A Miocene Age has been suggested for this deposit based on an identification of the rhinoceros bones. Tapirs include juveniles, adults and old individuals represented by teeth showing con-siderable wear. Many bones are fragmented and broken, while others remained articulated, but no evidence of predation, scavenging, or butchering has been seen in the bones so far examined.
There have been somewhat similar but much younger fossils found in this region from existing caves, where animals may have fallen in and gotten lost, or just wandered in to die. The geological origin of this deposit remains problematic, although some process related to karst and cave formation again appears likely. A spring, perhaps mineralized, is also a possibility, as is a deeply cut oxbow meander beneath a tall bluff. A single large block of very coarse-grained calcite was encountered in the dark clay. Its yellowish color and parallel crystal growth habit were typical of cave deposits, but the crystals were about five times typical size. No bat remains or guano have been identified. Very few quartzite cobbles, typical of major rivers in this area, have been encountered.
Larry Bolt, formerly with Tennessee Department of Transportation, accepted a job with the Maryland DOT and left the great State of Tennessee in early June. He is missed by all who knew and worked with him in this area and we wish him well in the new locality.
ANCESTRAL HISTORY of the HORSE
by Brenda C. Calloway, Historian
The word horse means a mammal that has one large toe on each foot, covered by a hoof. Miocene and Pliocene horses had three toes. Although the animals might walk on only one, the other two were there and bore hoofs. Horses belong to the order Periossodactyls (pe ris o dak tils) or beasts with five or three toes on each foot--numbers that might later be reduced to one. Artiodactyls (arti o dak tils) in contrast, have four toes or two. Both types of ungulates emerged as new orders in the Eocene epoch. Some-times they are referred to as odd-toed and even-toed animals. Both orders appeared almost simultaneously in Europe and North America, thus suggesting that they originated in Asia.
Among all the periossodactyls (odd-toed mammals) the most complete fossil ancestry is that of the Equidae, the horse and its kin. The changes from Hyracotherium to the wild horse was a long and somewhat complicated process. Yet there are those, especially people in the horse business, who find it hard to believe that this proud and noble beast started as an animal the size of a greyhound.
The earliest ancestral horse was actually discovered twice. The first discovery, made in Europe was called Hyracotherium because of its resem-blance to the Old World hyrax. North American fossils were better inter-preted and became Eohippus, or dawn horse--a name taken from the epoch in which it was discovered. Eocene is from the Greek word eos, meaning dawn. This ungulate was the first stage in equine evolution, although it was still far removed from true horses. It lived 50-55 mya.
Eohippus looked more like racing dogs such as the greyhounds or whippets, rather than the modern horse. The species varied in height from about 10 to 20 inches high at the shoulder and weighed from about 10 to 30 pounds. They had a low, elongated head, snout-like nose, short neck, and an arched back, so that its whole body appeared to be hunched up. There were 45 teeth, the largest number in any of the evolutionary stages of the horse. The limbs were small and slight with splayed toes, which kept it from sinking into swampy ground. The front feet had five toes, but only four with hoofs; the hind feet also had five toes, but in this case only three had hoofs. Eohippus became extinct in Europe during the mid-Eocene, but in America they survived until the end of the Eocene epoch. the descendants of those in North America gave rise to the evolutionary line of the true horse.
The next important ancestor was Mesohippus (intermediate horse), which lived about 30 to 35 mya. It averaged about 20 inches in height and 40 inches in length, or about as large as a collie dog. Crowns of both premolars
and the molars were larger and the cusps had joined together to form W-shaped walls. However, dental cement was still absent. The back was arched and flexible, and the hind legs still were longer than the forelegs. Each foot had three toes with the middle toe being distinctly larger; increasingly taking the weight of the whole body. The animal now stood on a hoof and not on its toes. The metacarpal and metatarsal bones of the hipparion (three-toed horse) grew longer and its limbs became adapted for running and trotting, thereby initiating the type of movement characteristic of Recent horses. Mesohippus of middle Oligocene epoch lived in large herds on grassy plains with trees and shrubs beside rivers.
Mesohippus was followed by Miohippus, a larger and more horselike creature, whose descendants split into four principal groups. Two of these groups kept low browsing teeth and three usable toes; some of these species finally migrated to Europe. In America, other species became as large as an African rhinoceros or hippopotamus; about 5 feet tall, 12 feet long, and weights about 4,000 pounds. Named Megahippus (big horse), these giants contrast with a third American group, Archaeohippus. Its members evolved into creatures no larger than Eohippus; about 18 inches long and 9 inches high at the shoulder.
Fourth among the descendants of Miohippus was a group named Merychippus (ruminant or cud-chewing horse) which appeared in the Miocene epoch 20 to 25 mya. It was about as large as a Shetland pony: 10 hands high (4 inches) at the shoulder with an almost straight back. The skull resembled that of a modern horse, with eyes placed far back on the head. The teeth were now well adapted with high-crowned premolars and molars whose enamel was deeply folded and crumpled and was set in bonelike cement. It is interesting to note that both sexes had canines (in true horses they are developed only in the stallions). High-crowned teeth that kept growing while they were used enabled Merychippus to give up browsing and feed upon tough steppe grasses. The limbs were slim and adapted for running on a hard surface. Bones of the foreleg were fused as in true horses; part of one bone (fibula) in the hind leg had disappeared, leaving only a spike. Each foot had three toes, although the lateral toes were almost useless and no longer touched the ground. The middle toe was large, with a broad curved hoof that carried all the animals weight. Phylogenetically, this ungulate was a very important step in the ancestral history of the horse. From it came direct evolutionary lines leading to the three-toed hipparions on the one hand and to the one-toed horses, asses and zebras on the other. Descendants of Merychippus ranged through the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Africa during the late Miocene and Pliocene epochs.
The ancestral horse whose descendants became Equus was known as Pliohippus, of the Pliocene epoch. Pliohippus developed a deep body and grinding teeth that grew higher, while the canines became small and the gap behind them widened. In some species the small toes became vestigial; in others they were reduced to tiny splint bones below the knee and hock Near the end of the Pliocene epoch, these changes turned certain North American descendants of Pliohippus into Equus, or the modern
horse. Although Equus developed in North America, huge herds soon spread to Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa where they evolved into varied subgenera and a large number of species. Near the close of the Pleistocene and early Holocene epochs, for some unknown reason, these horses died out in the New World, became scarce and finally disappeared from
Europe, and remained abundant only on the plains of Africa and, for a while, in Asia. Domestic breeds are descended from extinct Asiatic horses and the ass of Africa.
Benes, Josef, Prehistoric Animals and Plants, The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, New York, 1979, pp.81-83 and 99.
The Book of Knowledge, volume 5-6, The Grolier Society, Inc., New York, 1951, pp. 2011-2014.
Fenton, Carroll Lane and Mildred Adams, The Fossil Book, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1958, pp. 407-411 and 417-424.
International Wildlife Encyclopedia, Volume 11, Marshall Cavendish, New York, 1991, pp. 1243-1246 and 1250.
MEMBERSHIP LIST OF FRIENDS
Maria Adams/Anthony Underwood
John Andes/Wanda Bennett
Dr. Charles Bartlett
Dr. Michael A. Gibson
Helen M. Grills
John W. Thompson
Mary Lou White