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Late Cenozoic Grasses

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This study is dedicated to my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Thomasson, whose willing cohabitation with a wide assortment of plants, animals, and rocks during my early years instilled in me an intense curiosity in nature and a desire to pursue its study as a career.

Special appreciation is extended to the many ranchers, farmers, and landowners who allowed me complete access to their land and permission to excavate fossils. I especially thank the following for their interest and special courtesies extended to me: Mr. Guy R. Bemis, Mr. Roy L. Davis, Mr. and Mrs. James E. Flinn, Jr., Mr. Robert Hall, Dr. James F. Hamburg (Director, Hamburg Research Area), Mrs. Annette Leikam, Mr. Ward Sullivan, and Mr. Darrell Sutor.

Dr. Richard W. Pohl originally introduced me to the study of fossil grasses from the High Plains, and for this I especially thank him. His continued support of this project has contributed greatly to its completion.

I thank Dr. Nels Lersten who gave advice during the light microscopy phase of this study and Dr. Harry T. Horner, and, especially, Mr. Paul Elsner who furnished advice and assistance during the scanning electron microscopy phase of this study. Advice and assistance on the geological and paleontological portions of this study were given freely by a number of persons, only a few of whom are mentioned here. Maxim K. Elias granted me complete access to his papers and collections, and, in addition, allowed many stimulating conversations during the course of this study. Drs. Carl C. Vondra, R. W. Pohl, and R. J. Zakrzewski reviewed pertinent sections of this manuscript and I appreciate their helpful comments and criticisms. Dr. J. Alan Holman identified several reptilian fossils from sites in Ellis County and Dr. Richard J. Zakrzewski identified, or aided in the identification of, many mammalian remains. Dr. C. Bertrand Schultz and Dr. Robert M. Hunt generously allowed me complete access to paleontological collections and facilities at the University of Nebraska during my studies there. Drs. Ronald L. McGregor and A. B. Leonard extended the same privileges while I studied collections at the University of Kansas. I am grateful to Dr. Richard J. Zakrzewski and Mr. Dan D. Zehr for discussions which have led to a better understanding of the Tertiary deposits in the High Plains, and especially in Ellis County. I thank Dr. John H. McAndrews, Royal Ontario Museum, Dr. M. Graham Netting, Carnegie Museum, and Dr. Erling Dorf, Princeton University, for their personal involvement in obtaining financial support from their institutions for portions of my field studies.

I am thankful to all of my colleagues, botanical, geological, and otherwise, for their patient counsel in matters relating to this study. However, the final synthesis and interpretation are my own, and others do not necessarily endorse my conclusions. In this respect any errors are mine entirely.

Assistance by Mark Mathisen during fieldwork in the summer of 1975 is gratefully acknowledged. Mr. Harold Dean Gross accompanied and assisted the author during numerous fieldtrips and for this I extend my gratitude. The author is grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Felix Giebler for their help and hospitality during three summers of fieldwork.

I thank Ms. Debbie Leikam and Mrs. Cindy Lundin who typed the manuscript.

This study was supported in part by Project No. 1833 of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Station. During the summer of 1973 1 was given support for fieldwork by a Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research and during 1974 to 1976 by a National Science Foundation Grant for Improving Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Field Sciences BMS 7413324. The microscopic aspects of this work were done in the Bessey Microscopy Facility, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Saving the best until last, I would like to thank my wife, Nadine, for her help and encouragement throughout this study.


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Wells, P. V., 1970, Historical factors controlling the vegetation patterns and floristies of North America; in, Pleistocene and recent environments of the central Great Plains, W. Dort and J. K. Jones, eds.: Univ. Kansas Dept. of Geol., Spec. Publ. 3, p. 211-221.

Williams, D. L., 1975, Piptochaetium (Gramineae) and associated taxa: Evidence for the tertiary migration of plants between North and South America: Jour. Biogeography 2, p. 75-85.

Wilson, R. L., 1969, Systematics and faunal analysis of a lower Pliocene vertebrate assemblage from Trego County, Kansas: Univ. Mich. Mus. Paleont. Contrib. 22, no. 7, p. 75-126.

Wood, A. E., 1940, The mammalian fauna of the White River Oligocene: Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. 28, no. 3, p. 289-316.

Zehr, D. D., 1974, The mammals from an early Pliocene Local Fauna in Ellis County, Kansas: Fort Hays Kansas State Univ., Unpubl. M.S. Thesis, 80 pp.

Zeller, D. E., 1968, The stratigraphic succession in Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 189, p. 1-81. [available online]


Description of measured section at site 9a

Site 9a is located on the east wall of the northern-most roadcut on the WL SW NW NW Sec. 3, T. 12 S., R. 20 W. (Pl. I); see Hill City 4 SE, Kansas Quadrangle, U.S.G.S. topographic map, 1963.

Although the lithology of this site has been previously reported (Frye, Leonard, and Swineford, 1956; Zehr, 1974), subsequent study at the location has resulted in the modified section that follows:

Ogallala Formation
? Kimball and ? Ash Hollow Members, undifferentiated
Bed   Thickness,
5 Granule to medium pebble conglomerate, gray, extremely poorly sorted, well cemented, calcareous, weathers to prominent "mortar bed" at nearby outcrops. 1.0
4 Fine-medium sand and silt, reddish-tan, mostly well sorted, massive, lower 1/2 with abundant densely cemented pippy concretions; upper 1/2 uncemented, but with thinly laminated (? organic) matter; flat and finger "Daemonelix" organic matter (see Barbour, 1897) throughout. 3.3
3 Diatomite, creamish-white, some poorly sorted silt and fine-coarse sand, well cemented, calcareous. Level of charophyte remains of Daily and Thomasson, 1979; molluscan fauna of Frye, Leonard, and Swineford, 1956; cyperaceous plant remains of Thomasson, 1976a; rare vertebrate remains of Zehr, 1974; some ostracods. .7
2 Medium to coarse sand, reddish tan to gray, poorly sorted, moderately cemented in upper 5-6 feet, calcareous, unconsolidated in lower 5-6 feet; weathers to form "mortar bed." Tuff lithofacies located at north end of exposure at the level of this bed consisting of a densely cemented, gray ash, relatively pure at base. Contains abundant poorly sorted fine to coarse sand, forms a prominent mortar bed. 3.7
1 Clay, silt, and fine sand, greenish-gray, poorly to extremely well sorted, abundant white carbonate nodules in upper levels. Level of fish, amphibian, and reptilian remains reported by Zehr (1974). 2.0

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web May 1, 2009; originally published September 1979.
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