Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

David A. Etnier

Committee Members

Arthur Echternacht, J. Larry Wilson, Paul W. Parmalee, Walter E. Klippel


Knowledge of the character of the late Pleistocene-Holocene ichthyofauna of the middle Duck River was acquired as a result of identification and biostratigraphic analysis of numerous fish bone fragments from the well-stratified deposits of Cheek Bend Cave, a small rockshelter situated in the limestone bluffs along the Duck River in Maury County, Tennessee. Forty-five unequivocal fish taxa (representing 12 families) were identified, of which 25 taxa occurred in the Late Wisconsin strata, 33 in Holocene strata, and 13 in both depositional sequences. Fifteen of the Late Wisconsin taxa and 18 Holocene taxa appear to represent initial records for these periods, while 17 taxa are recorded for the first time from fossil deposits. Composing this latter group are small fish taxa from the following families: Cyprinidae, Ictaluridae, Cyprinodontidae, Percidae, and Cottidae.

Of particular interest are an apparently undescribed, extinct cyprinid taxon (mid-Holocene) that presumably has close affinities with species of the modern genera Dionda and Hybognathus and an unusual form of Noturus flavus (Late Wisconsin and Holocene) which appears to be somewhat distinct from modern counterparts. Although not identified from the cave deposits, Lagochila lacera, the harelip sucker, practically unknown from prehistoric deposits, was identified from the Middle to Late Archaic Hayes Site located on the Duck River in the cave vicinity. From a distributional standpoint, one species identified from the mid-Holocene deposits, Noturus flavater, is noteworthy. Its modern range is restricted to the southern Ozark region in Missouri and Arkansas.

Indirect evidence of a changing fish fauna is inferred from the concentration of certain groups of fishes in the Holocene strata, namely he Lepisosteidae, Ictaluridae, Cyprinodontidae, and the genus Lepomis. These groups may have been only marginally represented (at least locally) in the presumed middle Tennessee boreal forest region during the last glacial maximum, a distributional situation perhaps analogous to their modern distributions that appear to complement the boreal region of North America. More direct evidence was obtained as a result of the identification, from Pleistocene strata, of three species whose modern ranges are outside the Tennessee region completely (Perca flavescens, Nocomis bigutattus) or to a large extent (Esox masquinongy).

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