An Upper Cretaceous (middle Campanian) marine chondrichthyan and osteichthyan fauna from the Rattlesnake Mountain sandstone member of the Aguja Formation in West Texas

Joseph A. Schubert, Steven L. Wick, Thomas M. Lehman

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A thin phosphate-granule conglomerate within the Upper Cretaceous (middle Campanian) Rattlesnake Mountain sandstone member of the Aguja Formation preserves a diverse chondrichthyan and osteichthyan fauna. This highly fossiliferous deposit (the ‘Ten Bits Microsite’) yielded about 5000 teeth, spines, and denticles in a small amount of matrix (c. 150 kg). About 30 identifiable species of sharks, rays, and bony fishes are recognized. Two of the three most abundant chondrichthyan species at Ten Bits (Scapanorhynchus texanus and Ischyrhiza mira) are also the most common species in other middle to late Campanian marine vertebrate faunas along the Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain. The myliobatiform rays Brachyrhizodus and Rhombodus that occur at Ten Bits also appear to be characteristic of the Gulf and Atlantic Coast, as are lamniform sharks such as Cretalamna and Serratolamna. These taxa are entirely absent or extremely rare in Western Interior Campanian faunas. In contrast, some small orectolobiform sharks (Cantioscyllium, Chiloscyllium, Columbusia) and small rays (Protoplatyrhina) found at Ten Bits are common in shallow water faunas of the Western Interior and Texas Coastal Plain, but rarely reported from the eastern Gulf or Atlantic Coast. The common Western Interior ray Myledaphus bipartitus does not occur at Ten Bits or in any Gulf or Atlantic Coast fauna. Ptychotrygon agujaensis is abundantly represented in the Ten Bits fauna, but unknown in correlative marine faunas. Although Ptychotrygon occurs in all Western Interior, Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain faunas, it is represented elsewhere by apparently endemic species at each collection site. The differences between Western Interior, Gulf, and Atlantic Coastal Plain faunas probably reflect latitudinal variation in water temperature or salinity, or different oceanic water circulation patterns between the Western Interior Seaway and the Gulf or Atlantic Coast that restricted the distributions of some marine fish species. The Ten Bits fauna shares typical species with both Western Interior and Gulf and Atlantic Coast faunas, reflecting its position at the border between these provinces; however, the dominant taxa found at Ten Bits are the same as those found on the Gulf and Atlantic Coast, and indicate that western Texas was more closely allied biogeographically with that province than with the Western Interior of North America. One species tentatively identified in the Ten Bits fauna on the basis of a single tooth, Igdabatis cf. I. indicus, is otherwise known only from southern Europe and Asia, although a similar large myliobatid ray also occurs rarely in Texas Coastal Plain faunas. These occurrences indicate that western Texas may have been near the northern limit of the range for some tropical Tethyan marine vertebrate species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-33
Number of pages28
JournalCretaceous Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Biogeography
  • Gulf Coastal Plain
  • Selachii
  • Western Interior Seaway


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