Rhinos, Gomphotheres, Camels, Horses, Antelopes and Alligators Lived in Ancient ‘Texas Serengeti’

Dr. Steven May, a paleontology research associate at the University of Texas at Austin, has studied and identified an extensive collection of fossils from dig sites near Beeville, Texas. The results appear in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica.

An artist’s interpretation of ancient North American fauna. The new study revealed that elephant-like gomphotheres, rhinos, horses and antelopes with slingshot-shaped horns were among the species recovered near Beeville, Texas, by Great Depression-era fossil hunters. Image credit: Jay Matternes / Smithsonian Institution.

An artist’s interpretation of ancient North American fauna. The new study revealed that elephant-like gomphotheres, rhinos, horses and antelopes with slingshot-shaped horns were among the species recovered near Beeville, Texas, by Great Depression-era fossil hunters. Image credit: Jay Matternes / Smithsonian Institution.

Dr. May analyzed a collection of specimens unearthed by fossil hunters in Texas in the 1930s-1940s.

He found that the fauna make up a veritable ‘Texas Serengeti’ — with specimens including elephant-like gomphotheres, rhinos, alligators, antelopes, camels, 12 types of horses and several species of carnivores.

In total, the fossil trove contains nearly 4,000 specimens representing 50 animal species, all of which roamed the Texas Gulf Coast between 11 and 12 million years ago (Clarendonian age of the Miocene epoch).

“It’s the most representative collection of life from this time period of Earth history along the Texas Coastal Plain,” Dr. May said.

“In addition to shedding light on the inhabitants of an ancient Texas ecosystem, the collection is also valuable because of its fossil firsts.”

“They include a new genus of gomphothere (an extinct relative of elephants), named Blancotherium; the oldest fossils of the American alligator; and an extinct relative of modern dogs.”

“This extensive collection of fossils is helping to fill in gaps about the state’s ancient environment,” said Dr. Matthew Brown, Director of the Vertebrate Paleontology Collections at the Jackson School Museum of Earth History.

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Steven R. May. 2019. The Lapara Creek Fauna: Early Clarendonian of south Texas, USA. Palaeontologia Electronica 22.1.15A: 1-129; doi: 10.26879/929

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