Paper No. 33-6
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM
CONTRIBUTIONS OF BILLY PALMER TO THE FOSSIL COLLECTIONS OF THE CHARLESTON MUSEUM INCLUDING A NEW SPECIES OF PROTOCETID WHALE FROM THE TUPELO FORMATION OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Billy Thomas Palmer (1950-2018) was an avid fossil collector who volunteered for The Charleston Museum for 14 years. During his time with the Museum, Palmer collected and donated over 900 specimens to the museum's collection. For years he focused his fossil collecting efforts on the Martin Marietta Berkeley and Orangeburg quarries of South Carolina. These quarries are situated on either side of County Line Road (State Road S-8-59), which separates Berkeley County to the east from Orangeburg County to the west. While the Berkeley Quarry has been reclaimed, the Orangeburg quarry is still active. Among the numerous protocetid specimens collected from this locality, we focus on a partial skull collected from the Cross Member of the Middle Eocene Tupelo Bay Formation (Bartonian) which we designate as a new genus and species of protocetid whale. The skull consists of a partial cranium with complete petrosals, posterior processes of tympanics, the posterior ends of the nasals, a part of the right orbit, and what are interpreted as the right and left P2’s. The Martin Marietta Quarry as a rich fossil locality well known for producing protocetid remains including the holotype of Carolinacetus gingerichi. The new species differs from all other protocetids in having a deep cavity on the occiput, as well as having the following combination of features: large nasal processes of frontals, single-cusped P2, and premaxilla terminates at level of P2 or P3. A phylogenetic analysis placed this individual in a large polytomy along the cetacean stem; more closely related to crown Cetacea than Maicetus, Artiocetus, and Rodhocetus, but more basal than Georgiacetus, Babiacetus, and Eocetus. Another member of this polytomy, Natchitochia jonesi, does not share any elements with this partial skull although overlapping in overall size. We chose to name this new species and hope that future fossil discoveries will resolve any differences that may exist between these two protocetids.