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Borchers Fauna, Meade County

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Among the vertebrate fossils collected during the last five years in Meade County, Kansas, is a collection of Pleistocene vertebrates taken from the "Pearlette ash" zone, described by Cragin (1896, p. 54). These were found on the east side of Crooked creek, south of Meade, in sec. 21, T. 33 S., R. 28 W., on the Borchers ranch. Here is located the best exposure of Pleistocene deposits in the county. The deposit contains few fossils and it was only after two summers of intensive search that the remains of vertebrates were located. The exposure was worked for two weeks in the summer of 1939 and three weeks in the summer of 1940 by field parties from the University of Kansas. The fossils were taken from an impure ash presumably near the margin of the ash lens.

Geologic relations of the fossil-bearing beds

The following section, measured by John C. Frye, geologist in the Ground-Water Division of the U.S. Geological Survey and Kansas Geological Survey, and by me, shows the nature of the deposits at the Borchers fossil locality and their geologic relations. The fossil-bearing beds are found in the middle part of the locally exposed Pleistocene strata that are classed by Smith (1940, p. 105) as belonging provisionally to the nonred facies of his Odee formation, of Pleistocene age.

Section of Quaternary and Tertiary deposits in the NW sec. 21, T. 33 S., R. 28 W., Meade County, Kansas Thickness,
in feet
Quaternary system
Recent series
14.Top soil containing calcareous concretions1.6
Pleistocene series
13.Sandy silt and clay, tan to buff brown 14.6
12.Silt, clay, and some sand, gray to gray tan, calcareous nodules at top16.0
11.Weathered ash and silt; contains vertebrate remains collectively designated as the Borchers fauna4.0
10.Volcanic ash, pearl gray, thin bedded and cross bedded4.0
9.Clay and sandy silt, tan gray and brown gray18.3
8.Sand, coarse and well sorted at base grading upward into finer, more poorly sorted sand, rust colored; calcareous nodules at top10.0
Tertiary system
Ogallala formation
7.Caliche, sandy, gray tan6.6
6.Silt, fine sand, and some clay, tan to buff2.6
5.Sand and silt, reddish tan, massive7.0
4.Caliche, sandy, nodular, containing pockets and lenses of pink-tan sandy silt (Biorbia fossilia)11.2
3.Sandy silt and clay, pinkish tan (Biorbia fossilia) 6.1
2.Sand and gravel, cross bedded, contains tightly cemented and loose zones34.6
1.Flood plain  

Occurrence of fossils

The most abundant vertebrate remains collected at the Borchers fossil locality are mammals. The specimens collected form an assemblage that is previously unknown from the High Plains region. Most of the genera are the same as those now found inhabiting southwestern Kansas, although the species are distinct. Some of the forms are the same as those that lived in this region during part of the late Pliocene time. On the basis of the large number of "cotton rats" and "grasshopper mice" recovered from the deposit, indications are that the climate of Meade County was as warm at the time they lived as at the present time. These dominant forms are southern in their distribution and the lack of dominant boreal forms clearly indicates that the fauna inhabited part of Kansas during an interglacial age.

Found associated with the mammal remains are numerous salamander vertebrae and limb bones and a few limb bones of frogs or toads. Also, part of the plastron of a large land turtle and a few isolated vertebrae of snakes and lizards have been obtained. Bird remains are numerous, inasmuch as 350 fragmentary bones, chiefly of perching birds (passeriforms), have been recovered. This material has not yet been studied.

Unless otherwise stated, all catalog numbers of specimens described in this paper are those of the Kansas University Museum of Vertebrate Paleontology (KUMVP).

Acknowledgments--I am indebted to the Kansas State Fish and Game Commission and to John Carlton, Superintendent of Meade County State Park, for their cooperation and for permitting us to use their water supply for washing out the specimens; also to many of the people living in southwestern Kansas who have cooperated in every way possible to make our work in the area a success; to H.T.U. Smith of the Kansas Geological Survey and Department of Geology, and to John C. Frye of the United States Geological Survey and Kansas Geological Survey, for the advice that they have freely given me concerning the geology of Meade County.

I wish to thank the members of the 1940 field party, Joe Tihen, in charge, Harry Jacob, Ralph Taylor, George Rinker, and Morton Green, for their careful work in helping to bring together this collection of vertebrates. All drawings were made by Miss Frances Watson, unless otherwise acknowledged.

A brief explanation of technical terms has been included at the end of the paper in the hope that it will be of value to some readers.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web June 15, 2007; originally published July 1941.
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