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Kansas Geological Survey, Bulletin 191, pt. 1, originally published in 1968

Mississippian Conodonts from the Tri-State District, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

by Edwin D. Goebel, Thomas L. Thompson, Truman C. Waugh, and Leslie C. Mueller

Cover of the book; beige paper with black text.

Originally published in 1968 as part of "Short Papers on Research in 1967," Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 191, part 1, p. 21-25. This is, in general, the original text as published. The information has not been updated.


Conodonts were recovered as acetic acid residues from carbonate rock samples from the Tri-State lead-zinc district ore bodies of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The specimens are unaltered. The fauna belongs to the Gnathodus texanus-Taphrognathus Zone (late Osagian).


Minor amounts of galena and sphalerite were reported in sedimentary rock cores of Mississippian age in central and western Kansas by Lee (1933). Subsequent work by Thompson and Goebel (1963) and Goebel (1966) revealed that conodonts in association with galena and sphalerite were present as acid residues in some of Lee's cores, in many other carbonate rock cores, and in outcropping Mississippian rocks in southeastern Kansas. Conodonts, composed of calcium phosphate, are marine microfossils of unknown zoological affinities. Because of their rapid evolutionary changes in morphology and their worldwide distribution in diverse lithologies, conodonts are in popular use as tools of correlation by biostratigraphers. It was logical from the occurrences in Kansas to suspect that conodonts would be preserved in or near the ore bodies in the Tri-State District, and if so they could be used for correlation of these beds. A pilot study seemed in order, and a cooperative project with the Missouri Geological Survey was undertaken [by permission of W.C. Hayes, State Geologist].

Goebel (1966) reported on the petrographic features of carbonate rocks from western Kansas cores similar to those reported by Hagni and Saadallah (1965) in a study of six pull drifts in five mined areas in the Tri-State District. Some of the mines studied by Hagni and Saadallah were closed by June 1967 when this project commenced but effort was made to sample those sites still open. D. C. Brockie, E. H. Hare, and P. R. Dingess, of the Eagle-Picher Company, Cardin, Oklahoma, arranged entrance into Eagle-Picher mines and other open mines in the district. Also, Mr. Hare and Mr. Dingess suggested sample sites and accompanied the authors during the sampling.


At the sample sites shown on Figure 1, grab samples of about 3,000 g were obtained from mine walls and pillars except in pull drifts at sample locations 5A-P, 8A-F, and 34A-1. Samples were taken at approximately 20 foot lateral intervals along the walls of the pull drifts. It was hoped that these would approximate the sample sites of Hagni and Saadallah in the Westside mine in Kansas and the Little Greenback mine in Oklahoma.

Figure 1--Index map of Picher Lead-Zinc Field showing mines and sample locations (no sample 25 or 31).

Map shows parts of Cherokee Co., Kansas, and Ottawa Co., Oklahoma, where samples taken.

No underground lead-zinc mines were in operation in June 1967 in southwestern Missouri. The Oronogo Circle lead and zinc deposit north of Webb City, Missouri, a part of the Tri-State District, was selected as a suitable surface section from which to sample because of accessibility and history of important production of galena and sphalerite. Winslow (in Keyes, 1894) described the geological occurrence of these minerals at Oronogo Circle. Missouri Geological Survey Notebook 1294-27 gives the following measured section (measured by Thompson, 1967) which was sampled. Bed numbers refer to sample numbers in Table 1.

Oronogo Circle; NE SE sec. 36, T. 20 N., R. 33 W., west side Jasper County Highway MM, Jasper County, Missouri; Webb City 7 1/2' Quadrangle (Missouri Geological Survey locality 1294-27). Thickness
Feet Inches
Mississippian System
Meramecian Series
Warsaw Formation*
6I. Siltstone, brownish-gray, unconsolidated; probably tailings from mining operations  
6H. Limestone, reddish-brown to brown, weathered, tripolitic upper 5-feet 6 0
6G. Limestone and chert; limestone light gray, medium grained; chert as intergrowths with limestone; a quasi-breccia 3 0
6F. Limestone, very dark gray, weathers light gray, asphaltic, thick single bed  
6E. Limestone, light gray, coarse grained, very fossiliferous, good even bedding, brachiopod zones at top 2 0
6D. Limestone, coarse grained, conglomeratic; 1/8- to 1/4-inch flat pebbles included, fish-tooth conglomerate lenses contain limestone pebbles 0 6
6C. Limestone, dark gray, calcarenitc, coarse grained; bedding highly disturbed  
6B. Same as unit 6C  
6A. Same as unit 6C, highly brecciated  
5. Limestone, brown, medium grained, single bed; contains 30% waxy gray chert as scattered nodules  
4. Limestone, brown, coarse grained, contains galena and sphalerite, with asphaltic material; within disturbed zone; 5 feet above water level  
3. Shale, black, platy to fissile; located laterally between units 1 and 2, not necessarily below unit 4 ?  
2. Limestone, light gray, micritic, with disseminated galena, appears to be at same elevation as unit 1, separated from it by unit 3, base at water level  
1. Limestone breccia, with galena and chert; limestone, gray, dense, base at water level  
* Nomenclature used is that of the Missouri Geological Survey.

Table 1--List of conodonts recovered as acid residues. Number indicates sample number; number in parentheses indicates number of specimens.

Formation Locality
  1294-27: Oronogo Circle
Warsaw 1. No specimens
2. Fragments
3. No specimens
4. Fragments
5. Gnathodus texanus (18)
Neoprioniodus (1)
6A. G. texanus (1)
Ligonodina (2)
Neoprioniodus (2)
6B. G. texanus (1)
6C-D. No specimens
6E. Fragments
6F. Neoprioniodus (1)
6G. G. texanus (8)
  Blue Mound mine
"Reeds Spring" 1. Gnathodus texanus (3)
Hindeodella (1)
Ligonodina (1)
2. G. texanus (22)
3. G. texanus (15)
4. G. texanus (3)
4A. G. texanus (1)
Lonchodina (1)
  West Side mine
"M-Bed" 5A-B. No specimens
5C. Gnathodus texanus (1)
5D. G. texanus (3)
5E. G. texanus (2)
5F. No specimens
5G. G. texanus (1)
5H-I. No specimens
5J. G. texanus (3)
5K. G. texanus (7)
5L. Icriodus (1) (contaminant)
5M. G. texanus (1)
Icriodus (1) (contaminant)
5N. Fragment
5O. No specimens
5P. Fragment
8A. No specimens
8B. Fragment
8C. Fragments
8D-F. No specimens
"J-Bed" 9. No specimens
  Webber mine
"M-Bed" 6A-D. No specimens
6E. Gnathodus texanus (1)
7. Fragment
  Jarrett mine
"M-Bed" 10A. Fragment
10B. Fragments
11A. No specimens
11B. Gnathodus texanus (2)
11C. No specimens
  Griffin mine
"Short Creek" 12A. Fragment
12B. Fragments
"M-Bed" 12C. Gnathodus texanus (11)
Ligonodina (3)
Lonchodina (45)
Neoprioniodus (1)
"J-bed" 13A. G. texanus (22)
Hibbardella (6)
Ligonodina (3)
Lonchodina (31)
Metalonchodina (2)
Neoprioniodus (3)
13B. G. texanus (36)
Taphrognathus varians
Hibbardella (1)
Ligonodina (7)
Lonchodina (46)
Metalonchodina (4)
13C. No specimens
  John Beaver mine
"M-Bed" 14A. Icriodus (1) (contaminant)
Lonchodina (1)
14B-C.; 15. No specimens
"Sheet Ground" 16A. Gnathodus texanus (40)
Hindeodella (5)
Lonchodina (1)
"M-bed" 17A. No specimens
18A. G. texanus (1)
Spathognathodus pulcher (1)
Ligonodina (2)
Lonchodina (1)
  Big John-K mine
"M-Bed" 19. Gnathodus texanus (2)
Lonchodina (6)
23-24. No specimens
  Grace B mine
"J-Bed" 20. No specimens
21. Gnathodus texanus (19)
Taphrognathus varians (2)
Hibbardella (2)
Ligonodina (3)
Lonchodina (34)
Metalonchodina (1)
Neoprioniodus (1)
"J-Bed" 22. G. texanus (35)
"G, H-Bed?"   T. varians (3)
Ligonodina (6)
Lonchodina (31)
Metalonchodina (3)
Neoprioniodus (3)
25. Sample skipped
"J-Bed" 26. Fragments
27-29. No specimens
30. G. texanus (1)
Icriodus (1) (contaminant)
  Little Greenback mine
(Tongaha Mining Co. & Tom Kiser)
  31. Sample skipped
"M-Bed" 32A-B. No specimens
33. Fragments
34A. Taphrognathus varians (1)
34B-E. No specimens
34F. Gnathodus texanus (1)
34G. No specimens
34H. T. varians (1)
34I-35. No specimens

Samples from the mines and from Oronogo Circle were dissolved in 20-25 percent acetic acid (v/v) by the method described by Collinson (1963). A heavy mineral separation method on acid residues using tetrabromoethane concentrated conodonts and metallic sulfides from which conodont specimens and fragments of conodont-like material were hand-picked. The specimens recovered were unaltered in appearance and displayed no physical evidence of reworking.

Conodont specimens recovered were studied and compared with reference collections of the Kansas Geological Survey and the Missouri Geological Survey. Identifications to generic and in some cases to specific level are given in Table 1. Letter designations (Table 1) of beds follow lithologic identifications established by Fowler and Lyden (1932) and Fowler, et al. (1935). E. H. Hare and P. R. Dingess kindly marked letter-beds and formations on lease maps. Parts of Figure 1 and Table 1 were compiled from this information.

The conodont fauna recovered correlates with the Gnathodus texanus s.s.-Taphrognathus Zone which Collinson, et al. (1962) established in the type section of Mississippian rocks in the upper Mississippi River valley. Their zone coincides with the Keokuk Formation. They correlated the zone approximately with the lower part of the cuIIα Zone of western Europe. The upper limit of the zone (Collinson, et al., 1962) is reported as marked by the lowest occurrence of Apatognathus? and by the lowest abundant occurrence of Taphrognathus varians Branson and Mehl. The lower zonal boundary is characterized by the lowermost limit of abundant occurrence of Gnathodus texanus s.s. The zone is characterized by relatively few species but a great abundance of Gnathodus texanus s.s. Roundy and rare to common occurrence of Taphrognathus varians as well as Taphrognathus n. sp.

Rexroad and Collinson (1965) in a study of faunas from the Keokuk, Warsaw, and Salem formations in Illinois verified that the zone is dominated numerically by only two species, Gnathodus texanus and Taphrognathus varians. In several sections of Keokuk Formation studied they reported a fauna dominated by Gnathodus texanus, with no Taphrognathus varians. The fauna of the Gnathodus texanus-Taphrognathus Zone is much like that of the fauna of the Taphrognathus varians-Apatognathus? Zone which coincides (Collinson, et al., 1962) with the Warsaw and Salem formations. The latter zone is characterized by greater abundances of Taphrognathus varians and Neoprioniodus tulensis Pander. Differences in the abundance of specimens seemingly indicate useful biostratigraphic subdivisions.

A total of 538 identifiable specimens was recovered as residue material from the 35 locations sampled. Of this number 261 are Gnathodus texanus, 197 are Lonchodina, 12 Neoprioniodus, 1 Spathognathodus pulcher (Branson and Mehl), 11 Taphrognathus varians, and 56 others judged of less biostratigraphic value. By numeric abundance of Gnathodus texanus over other species, the Gnathodus texanus-Taphrognathus Zone is judged present. Occurrence of four specimens of Icriodus (a pre-Mississippian conodont) is thought to be contamination due to the laboratory procedure as a Devonian conodont residue project was near completion in the laboratory when this project commenced. Apparently, these specimens of Icriodus are from insufficiently cleaned screens or straining apparatus but the possibility remains that the specimens were reworked as part of a mixed fauna.

A similarity of faunas by mine locations is shown in Table 1. The Blue Mound and West Side samples from the northeastern part of the Picher Field in Kansas contained large specimens (>1.75 mm) of Gnathodus texanus in a fauna which excluded Taphrognathus varians. Seemingly, this would be an early part of the zone. Samples from the Grace B and Griffin mines in the northwestern part of the field in Kansas contained a fauna also dominated by large specimens of Gnathodus texanus but which contained a few specimens of Taphrognathus varians. Probably this fauna indicates a later part of the zone. The John Beaver, Little Greenback, and other mines sampled contained a fauna judged insufficient for proper evaluation.

Specimens of Gnathodus texanus from Oronogo Circle were relatively small in size (<1.0 mm) compared with those found in all the underground locations. The Geologic Map of Missouri (McCracken, 1961) shows the location of the Oronogo Circle to be in an area of exposures of the Warsaw, Salem, and St. Louis formations. Identification of the meager fauna is inconclusive. Tentatively, a late portion of the range of Gnathodus texanus is indicated. Thompson (1965) reported the Gnathodus texanus-Taphrognathus Zone present in two outcrops (SE NW sec. 1, T. 35 S., R. 25 E., and NE NE SW sec. 33, T. 34 S., R. 25 E.) in southeastern Cherokee County, Kansas. The localities are geographically between the Picher Field and Oronogo Circle.

Only one zone of conodonts is presently recognized in the Tri-State District ore bodies. The Reeds Spring Formation (Table 1), because of its pre-Keokuk stratigraphic assignment by Moore (Moore, et al., 195 1 ), should have contained an older fauna than the Gnathodus texanus-Taphrognathus Zone. No early Mississippian conodonts were found in the Tri-State ore bodies sampled. However, early Mississippian conodont faunas from outcrops in southwestern Missouri have been reported (Thompson 1967).

Conodonts occur in and adjacent to the ore bodies of the Tri-State District in sufficient numbers and variety of specimens to establish the presence of the Gnathodus texanus-Taphrognathus Zone. This is the first report of these microfossils in the underground mined area. Conodonts are preserved, apparently unaltered by mineralizing solutions, in mineralized bodies of rock. Faunas of conodonts may be useful as guides to age correlation of mineralized beds. Although this study is preliminary, sufficient information was gained to suggest that a similar study in other mineralized and semi-mineralized sedimentary rocks would be fruitful. Examination of exploratory cores for conodonts in areas in the Midcontinent in Mississippian rocks where traces of metallic sulfide are known is recommended. Such regional investigation of occurrence of traces of galena and sphalerite in cores containing faunas of conodonts of similar age as those in rocks of the Tri-State District possibly could point to favorable areas for future exploration.


Collinson, Charles, 1963, Collection and preparation of conodonts through mass production techniques: Illinois State Geol. Survey, Circ. 343, 16 p.

Collinson, Charles, Scott, A. J., and Rexroad, C. B., 1962, Six charts showing biostratigraphic zones, and correlations based on conodonts from the Devonian and Mississippian rocks of the upper Mississippi Valley: Illinois State Geol. Survey, Circ. 328, 32 p.

Fowler, G. M., and Lyden, J. P., 1932, The ore deposits of the Tri-State District (Missouri-Kansas-Oklahoma): Am. Inst. Min. and Met. Eng., Tech. Pub. No. 446, 46 p.

Fowler, G. M., Lyden, J. P., Gregory, F. E., and Agar, W. M., 1935, Chertification in the Tri-State (Oklahoma-Kansas-Missouri) mining district: Am. Inst. Min. and Met. Eng., Trans., v. 115, p. 106-163.

Goebel, E. D., 1966, Stratigraphy of Mississippian rocks in western Kansas: Unpub. Ph.D. dissertation, Dept. Geol., Univ. of Kansas, 187 p.

Hagni, R. D. , and Saadallah, A. A., 1965, Alteration of host rock limestone adjacent to zinc-lead ore deposits in the Tri-State District, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma: Econ. Geol., v. 60, no. 8, p. 1607-1619.

Lee, Wallace, 1940, Subsurface Mississippian rocks of Kansas: Kans, Geol. Survey, Bull. 33, 114 p. [available online]

McCracken, M. H., 1961, (Compiler), Geologic map of Missouri: Missouri Geol. Survey.

Moore, R. C., Frye, J. C., Jewett, J. M., Lee, Wallace, and O'Connor, H. G., 1951, The Kansas rock column: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 89, 132 p. [available online]

Rexroad, C. B., and Collinson, Charles, 1965, Conodonts from the Keokuk, Warsaw, and Salem Formations (Mississippian) of Illinois: Illinois State Geol. Survey, Circ. 388, 26 p.

Thompson, T. L., 1965, Conodonts from the Meramecian Stage (Upper Mississippian) of Kansas: Unpub. Ph.D. dissertation, Dept. Geol., State Univ. Iowa, 172 p.

Thompson, T. L., 1967, Conodont zonation of Lower Osagean rocks (Lower Mississippian) of southwestern Missouri: Missouri Geol. Survey, Report Invest. 39, 88 p.

Thompson, T. L., and Goebel, E. D., 1963, Preliminary report on conodonts of the Meramecian Stage (Upper Mississippian) from the subsurface of western Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 165, pt. 1, 16 p. [available online]

Winslow, Arthur, 1894, in Keyes, C. R., Lead and zinc deposits: Missouri Geol. Survey, v. 7, p. 573-576.

Kansas Geological Survey, Short Papers on Research in 1967
Placed on web May 11, 2009; originally published in April 1968.
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