Description of the lower jaws of Baculites from the Upper Cretaceous U.S. Western Interior

Neal L Larson, Neil H Landman


We report the discovery of lower jaws of Baculites (Ammonoidea) from the Upper Cretaceous U.S. Western Interior. In the lower Campanian Smoky Hill Chalk Member of the Niobrara Chalk of Kansas, most of the jaws occur as isolated elements. Based on their age, they probably belong to Baculites sp. (smooth). They conform to the description of rugaptychus, and are ornamented with coarse rugae on their ventral side. One specimen is preserved inside a small fecal pellet that was probably produced by a fish. Another specimen occurs inside in a crushed body chamber near the aperture and is probably in situ. Three small structures are present immediately behind the jaw and may represent the remains of the gills. In the lower Maastrichtian Pierre Shale of Wyoming, two specimens of Baculites grandis contain lower jaws inside their body chambers, and are probably in situ. In both specimens, the jaws are oriented at an acute angle to the long axis of the shell, with their anterior ends pointing toward the dorsum. One of the jaws is folded into a U-shape, which probably approximates the shape of the jaw during life. Based on the measurements of the jaws and the shape of the shell, the jaws could not have touched the sides of the shell even if they were splayed out, implying that they could not have effectively served as opercula. Instead, in combination with the upper jaws and radula, they constituted the buccal apparatus that collected and conveyed food to the esophagus.


Baculites; Jaws; Upper Cretaceous; Pierre Shale; Niobrara Chalk

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