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Kansas Geological Survey, Bulletin 41, Part 7, originally published in 1942

A New Species of Cyprinidontid Fish from the Middle Pliocene of Kansas

by Claude W. Hibbard and David H. Dunkle

Cover of the book; gray paper; black text.

Originally published in 1942 as part of Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 41, pt. 6 and 7. This is, in general, the original text as published. The information has not been updated.


A new species of cyprinidontid fish, Fundulus detillae, is described from the middle Pliocene, Ogallala formation, of Logan County, Kansas.


During the summer of 1924 the late H. T. Martin, then Curator of Paleontology, at the University of Kansas Museum of Vertebrate Paleontology, while working the "Rhino Hill" quarry in Wallace County, incidentally discovered fish scales and leaf impressions in diatomaceous marl deposits in the vicinity. Later, M. K. Elias, of the Kansas State Geological Survey, studied the geology of Wallace County, incorporating his findings in a Survey report (Elias, 1931). In the course of his studies Elias discovered other outcrops of the marl, including one just east of Wallace County in sec. 7, T. 11 S., R. 37 W., Logan County. In this deposit he found a few fragmentary leaves and fish remains. On August 30, 1931, William K. McNown and Claude W. Hibbard, while engaged in reconnaissance work in western Kansas, met Doctor Elias and his son Max at the "Rhino Hill" quarry. With him were three residents of the area, C. M. DeTilla and West Grover of Wallace, Kan., and Emil Schroeder of Brewster, Kan., all of whom had assisted Martin in the past. Mr. DeTilla succeeded in locating the fossiliferous horizon in the Logan County marl deposit, and a number of fish skeletons were found at this time. The locality was not visited again until David and Helena Dunkle, in August, 1935, spent four days at the quarry collecting fossil leaves and fishes. A Kansas Museum field party, composed of C. W. Hibbard, Faye Ganfield Hibbard, Joe Tihen, Francis Parks and Otto Tiemeier, spent the period from July 6 to July 18, 1936, collecting fossil fish and plants from the marl. Finally, David and Helena Dunkle spent one day in August, 1940, collecting at the locality.

The collection made in 1931 formed the basis of the report upon the flora by Chaney and Elias (1936) as well as the fishes reported by Hibbard (1936). Most of the material included in this report is also a part of the collection made in 1931.

We wish to express our gratitude to the many individuals mentioned, and to George Vincent, owner of the ranch upon which the deposit is located, for their assistance in making this collection.

The new species of fossil fish here described is represented in the collection of the University of Kansas Museum of Paleontology by numerous specimens, all from the diatomaceous marl deposit of Logan County described above. The series includes skeletal assemblages of all degrees of completeness. Preservation of the fossils is generally poor, inasmuch as many are distorted. Also, unavoidable damage from mechanical cleavage of the marl adds to the difficulty of obtaining good specimens.

It has been possible to determine that the new species of fish possessed cycloid scales that extended anteriorly over the dorsal and lateral regions of the head; well developed eyes; the margin of the upper jaw formed only by the premaxillaries; fixed conical teeth in more than one series; aspinous fins; a single dorsal fin, posteriorly inserted slightly in advance of the anal fin; no modification of any of the anal fin rays into intromittent organs; a normal vent; the caudal fin not forked; abdominal pelvic fins; and no lateral line. These observable characters place the fish, without doubt, in the order Cyprinodontes, and in the subfamily Fundulinae of the family Cyprinodontidae.

Plate 1

Hibbard and Dunkle--Pliocene Fish (Bull. 41, part 7)

Plate 1--Fundulus detillae, n. sp. University of Kansas Museum Vertebrate Paleontology, holotype (no. 848F); middle Pliocene, Logan County, Kansas. Total body length 50.6 mm.

black and white line photo of fossil fish.

Description of Species

Fundulus detillae, n. sp.
Plate 1 (page 270)

Holotype--University of Kansas Museum of Vertebrate Paleontology, no. 848F, a complete but imperfectly impressed fish in counterpart; collected by C. M. DeTilla, August 30, 1931. Paratypes, nos. 852F, 856F, 861F, 865F, 872F, 878F, 878aF, 880F, 881F, 1137F and 1143F, are nearly complete impressed fish.

Horizon and type locality--Middle Pliocene beds of the Ogallala formation; sec. 7, T. 11 S., R. 37 W., Logan County, Kansas.

Diagnosis--A Fundulus which differs from all of its closest allies in the following combination of structural details: head length and maximum body depth more than one third of total body length; conical teeth in more than one series, firmly attached to the premaxillaries and dentaries. Four branchiostegal rays; vertebrae approximately twice as long as deep; dorsal fin having 13 rays inserted in advance of the anal fin, which is composed of 11 rays; caudal having 29 rays.

Description of the holotype--A small moderately elongated fish. Head scaled dorsally and laterally, relatively large, depressed, its length with the opercular apparatus, which approximates the maximum body depth, contained 3.25 times in the body length, and its greatest depth contained 4.1 times in this length. Bones of the head not observable. Orbit ovate, centrally placed, and small, its length equalling one fifth the length of the head and operculum. Suspensorium inclined far forward. Mouth terminal, uptilted by the projection of the lower jaws, and gape small. Maxillaries restricted from the edge of the mouth by large premaxillaries, which exhibit concave dentigerous margins. Dentary bones weakly united at the symphysis. Teeth styliform and curved, firmly attached to the premaxillaries and dentaries, and in more than one row, the external series much enlarged. Opercular bones normal. Four saber-like branchiostegal rays on either side. Vertebrae 37, their length twice their depth, strongly constricted; strengthened by pairs of dorso-laterally and ventro-laterally disposed longitudinal ridges. Neural and haemal structures all about equally developed, expanded and firmly attached to the centra proximally, right and left halves fused distally, and provided with short spinous processes. Ribs robust, very slightly arched, and reaching only two thirds the distance to the ventral body margin. Dorsal fin posteriorly placed, beginning of insertion located opposite the 18th trunk vertebra; 13 rays, the anterior 4 shorter than the rest and not deeply bifurcated, slightly acuminate behind, longest ray approximately as long as the length of the insertion of the fin. Caudal fin deep, not emarginated but roundly truncated, 16 bifurcated rays preceded dorsally by 9 (?) and ventrally by 4 short, unbifurcated rays. Anal fin shorter at the base but deeper than the dorsal, having 11 unmodified bifurcated rays, the first of which is inserted below the 19th vertebra, and the longest of which exceeds by one third the length of the fin base. Proximal radial supports of both dorsal and anal fins short, transversely compressed and longitudinally expanded. Pelvic plate inserted opposite the 13th abdominal vertebra. Pelvic fins abdominal and originating slightly nearer the anal than the pectoral; number of their rays not determined. Pectoral fins elevated, large and distally overlapping the pelvic plates.

Scales large, cycloid, and widely overlapping. Those from the dorsal trunk region, 1.6 mm in length, round in outline, nuclei centrally placed, exhibiting 8 to 11 complete basal radii; circuli on exposed portions of scales not densely concentrated. No evidences of lateral line observable.

Measurements of the holotype--Length from snout to base of caudal fin, 52 mm; length of head and opercular apparatus, 15.7 mm; maximum depth of head, 12.5 mm; maximum body depth at anterior insertion of pelvic fins, 15.3 mm; depth of caudal pedicle, 7.6 mm.

Variations--The series of referred specimens reveal only a few structural details that have not been indicated already in the description of the holotype. One feature is the characteristic structure of the premaxillary, which is indicative of the extreme protractility of the mouth in this family of fishes. Also, the basal pharyngeals are separate and covered by an irregular series of conical teeth. In addition, several specimens show the complete paired fins, the pectorals composed of 16 bifurcated rays and the pelvic of 6 to 7.

These specimens show the following extreme range of measurements: total length from snout to base of caudal fin, 25.9 to 69.5 mm; length of head with opercular apparatus, 7.1 to 19.5 mm; maximum depth of head, 3.0 to 14.0 mm; maximum body depth at anterior insertion of pelvic fins, 4.5 to 19.4 mm; depth at caudal pedicle, 1.9 to 9.7 mm.

Variations in the number of vertebrae and fin rays noted are: vertebrae, 31 to 37; dorsal fin rays, 12 to 13; total caudal rays, 29 to 36; anal rays, 10 to 13. Certain of these variations, such as the differences in the number of caudal rays and vertebrae, which seem excessive, may be inaccurate owing to distortion in preservation and damage in collecting.

Remarks--On the basis of skeletal evidence alone, it is not possible to assign the described species to any genus other than Fundulus, in spite of the differences listed in the diagnosis. F. detillae differs from Parafundulus nevadensis Eastman in that the latter possesses a dorsal fin more anteriorly placed in relation to the anal. It is distinguished from P. erdisi Jordan by characters of the vertebrae, which are deeper than long in P. erdisi.

Fundulus detillae was found associated with Chaenobryttus kansasensis Hibbard, Pomoxis lanei Hibbard and the fossil frog Scaphiopus studeri Taylor.

This species is named in honor of Mr. C. M. DeTilla of Wallace, Kan., who discovered the occurrence of these fishes and to whom we are indebted for assistance.


Chaney, Ralph W., and Elias, Maxim K., 1936, Late Tertiary floras from the High Plains: Carnegie Inst. Washington, Pub. 476, pp. 1-72, pls. 1-7, fig. 1.

Eastman, Charles R., 1917, Fossil fishes in the collection of the United States National Museum: U. S. Nat. Mus., Proc., vol. 52, no. 2177, pp. 235-304, pls. 1-23, figs. 1-9.

Elias, Maxim K., 1931, The geology of Wallace County, Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, Bull. 18, pp. 1-254, pls. 1-42, figs. 1-7. [available online]

Hanna, G. Dallas, 1932, Pliocene diatoms of Wallace County, Kansas: Univ. Kansas Sci. Bull., vol. 20, no. 21, pp. 369-395,4 pls.

Hibbard, Claude W., 1936, Two new sunfish of the family Centrarchidae from the middle Pliocene of Kansas: Univ. Kansas Sci. Bull., vol. 24, no. 11, pp. 177-185, 2 pls.

Hubbs, Carl L., 1926, Studies of the fishes of the order Cyprinodontes. VI. Material for a revision of the American genera and species: Univ. Michigan Mus. Zool., Misc. Pub. 16, pp. 3-87, 4 pls.

Jordan, David Starr, 1924, Description of Miocene fishes from southern California: So. California Acad. Sci., Bull., vol. 23, pt. 2, pp. 42-50, pls. 1-8.

Jordan, David Starr, and Evermann, Barton Warren, 1896, The fishes of North and Middle America: A descriptive catalogue of the species of fish-like vertebrates found in the waters of North America, north of the Isthmus of Panama. Pt. 1: U.S. Nat. Mus., Bull. 47, pp. 1-1240.

Taylor, Edward H., 1938, A new anuran amphibian from the Pliocene of Kansas: Univ. Kansas Sci. Bull., vol. 25, no. 18, pp. 407-419, 4 pls.

Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web March 30, 2012; originally published in Aug. 1942
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