Eocene Teleostean Otoliths, Including a New Taxon, from the Clinchfield Formation (Bartonian) in Georgia, USA, with Biostratigraphic, Biogeographic,
climate; Congridae; Ophidiidae; Sciaenidae; tectonics
and Paleoecologic Implications
Investigations of the Clinchfield Formation (middle Eocene, upper Bartonian) exposed at the Hardie Mine (Wilkinson County, Georgia, USA), produced 4,768 actinopterygian otoliths representing 14 taxa and increased the number of bony fishes threefold from the site. The somewhat limited richness was characterized by bonefishes, mud eels, conger eels, sea catfishes, cusk-eels, snooks, grunts, drums and croakers, and porgies. The assemblage had a relatively even distribution with Ophidiidae, Congridae, and Sciaenidae most common. Included in the otolith taxa was a new sciaenid genus and species, Eosciaena ebersolei, with unknown relationships to other Sciaenidae. The Clinchfield otoliths were compared to other middle and late Eocene in age otolith assemblages in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana utilizing percentage similarity measurements. Analysis indicated that the Clinchfield otoliths were not greatly similar or greatly unlike the Moodys Branch and Yazoo Clay otolith assemblages. However, the Clinchfield showed little relationship to the slightly older Lisbon Formation in adjacent Alabama and is postulated to be related to global climatic and plate tectonic events. Biostratigraphically, the Clinchfield otolith taxa are essentially the same as the other formations except for the Lisbon, which has at least ten unique species. Abundances of Clinchfield otolith taxa indicate a possible sub-bioprovince in the eastern Gulf Coastal Plain. The Clinchfield otoliths indicate a tropical to perhaps subtropical, soft substrate, mainly normal marine to slightly reduced salinities, inner shelf (0–20 m) paleoenvironment with indications of proximal continental coastlines. This investigation represents an initial step in addressing the immensely understudied Paleogene otolith assemblages in Georgia.