Project Director

Gaudin, Timothy


Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Caves play an essential role in our understanding of the Pleistocene Epoch. Caves represent the largest percentage of known North American Pleistocene faunas (Kurten and Anderson, 1980). These unique environments provide stable erosion free conditions that allow fossils to remain preserved for thousands, if not millions, of years (Corgan, 1996; Schubert et al., 2003). The fossil remains found in caves can help paleontologists document biogeographic and evolutionary patterns in a great variety of organisms (Schubert et al., 2003). Many fossils found in cave deposits only date to the Holocene (Schubert et al., 2003). These fossils localities are rarely studied by paleontologists because they do not contain extinct taxa (Schubert et al., 2003). However, Holocene dated sites can provide useful information on the evolution of current ecosystems (Schubert et al., 2003). Tennessee, with its multitude of caves, provides an excellent environment for exploring fossils from caves in both the Pleistocene and Holocene (Corgan, 1996). Hamilton County contains a plethora of caves, several of which have been shown to contain Pleistocene and Holocene fossil remains (Parmalee, 1961; Corgan, 1996; Bramblett, 1998; Gaudin et al., 1998; Gaudin and Bramblett 1999). Historically, nearly all of our information concerning Hamilton County during the Pleistocene and Holocene is based on the megafaunal fossils unearthed in Lookout Mountain Cave by Dr. Henry C. Mercer in December of 1893 (Mercer, 1894; Corgan, 1996). Though Mercer described many megafaunal and medium-size vertebrates including fish, turtles (Chelonia), mink (Mustela vison), squirrel (Sciuridae), woodchuck (Marmo/a monax), porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), tapir (Tapirus haysi), deer (Odocoileus virginianus), peccary (Mylohyus nasutus), and ground sloth (Paramylodon sp.) (Corgan, 1996), his sample lacked the microvertebrate taxa that one might expect to find, including snakes, bats, salamanders, shrews, moles, and small rodents. This indicates that Mercer did not use excavation methods that would lead to the recovery of microfaunal remains (Corgan, 1996; Bramblett, 1998). Due to the wide biogeographic distribution and broad environmental tolerances of the species found within the cave, they are less than ideal indicators of environmental change. Microvertebrate fossils are needed in order to better understand how vertebrate communities responded to environmental changes that occurred during the Pleistocene and Holocene. By examining fossil vertebrate microfauna preserved in caves in Lookout Mountain and in Ooltewah, one could gain a greater understanding of the Pleistocene of Hamilton County. These microvertebrate fossils can act as indicator species that provide evidence for changes in temperature, precipitation, and general habitat conditions. Also, many of the microfaunal fossils found in the Pleistocene represent species that are still alive today and can therefore be used to study how modem organisms have adapted to changing climates, found new habitats and existed in a continually altering environment (Kurten and Anderson, 1980, Schubert et al., 2003).


Firstly, I would like to thank my committee for taking the time to help me in this endeavor. I would also like to thank Dr. Wilson for all his help with the statistical data portion of my thesis. Last, I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Gaudin, for all the time and guidance he has given me over this past year.


B. S.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Science.




Fossils--Tennessee--Hamilton County--Classification; Animals, Fossil--Classification; Ecological heterogeneity; Pleistocene-Holocene boundary



Document Type



iv, 69 leaves





Call Number

LB2369.5 .M544 2007


Included in

Paleontology Commons