The late Cenomanian oyster Lopha staufferi (Bergquist, 1944) – the oldest ribbed oyster in the Upper Cretaceous of the Western Interior of the United States

Stephen C. Hook, William A. Cobban


Lopha staufferi (Bergquist, 1944) is a medium-sized, ribbed, Late Cretaceous oyster with a slightly curved axis and a zigzag commissure; it appears suddenly and conspicuously in upper Cenomanian rocks in the Western Interior Basin of the United States. At maturity, the ribs on both valves thicken into steep flanks that allow the oyster to increase interior volume without increasing its exterior footprint on the seafloor. Lopha staufferi is the first (earliest) ribbed oyster in the Late Cretaceous of the Western Interior, but has no ancestor in the basin. It disappears from the rock record as suddenly as it appeared, leaving no direct descendent in the basin. In the southern part of the basin where it is well constrained, L. staufferi is restricted stratigraphically to the upper Cenomanian Metoicoceras mosbyense Zone (= Dunveganoceras conditum Zone in the north). Lopha staufferi has an unusual paleogeographic distribution, occurring in only two, widely scattered areas in the basin. It has been found at several localities near the western shoreline of the Late Cretaceous Seaway in west-central New Mexico and adjacent Arizona, and in localities 1,900 km (1,200 mi) to the northeast near the eastern shoreline in northeastern Minnesota, but nowhere in between. In west-central New Mexico and adjacent Arizona, L. staufferi is a guide fossil to the Twowells Tongue of the Dakota Sandstone.


Cenomanian; Oysters; U. S. Western Interior; Taxonomy; Paleogeography; Biostratigraphy; Sweepstake Routes; Zigzag Commissure; Twowells Tongue; Dakota Sandstone.

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