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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

SIZE ESTIMATES OF EXTINCT AQUATIC PALAEOPHEID SNAKES FROM THE EOCENE OF CENTRAL GEORGIA **

Abstract

Eocene aged sediments of the Barnwell Group outcrop across central Georgia just south of the modern fall line. The Barnwell Group is described as a fossiliferous, quartz sand dominated unit with terrestrial and coastal facies. The coastal facies represents near-shore marine environments and contains occasional limestone beds. Across portions of central Georgia, extensive deposits of kaolin lie immediately beneath the sediments of the Barnwell Group. Mining operations to recover kaolin often expose these fossil bearing sediments. Here we describe Eocene snake fossils recovered from an active kaolin mine in Wilkinson County, Georgia. The material was recovered by surface collecting fossiliferous horizons exposed by mining operations. In addition to snake material, fossils of many sharks, sawfish and rays, as well as turtles, and some larger marine mammals were recovered. A comparison of the Wilkinson County mine fossils with the nearby Hardie Mine fauna suggests comparable ages. The Hardie Mine deposits come from the Riggins Mill Member of the Clinchfield Formation and have been dated to the Late Eocene, 34.5-35.5 ma. Two genera (Palaeophis and Pterosphenus) of aquatic marine snakes are known to occur in Eocene marine sediments in Georgia. In the current study, a variety of linear measurements were taken on the vertebrae of the Eocene fossils and modern boas and pythons of known lengths. Regression analysis was used to estimate the length of the fossil taxa.

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