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Fowlkes Cave

TX: Culberson Co.


Location of Fowlkes Cave.

Age. Late Wisconsin/Holocene. Dalquest and Stangl (1984b) give as Late Pleistocene, but it appears that some of the fauna may be Holocene (see discussion below).

General Description. About 10 km north of Kent, near the southern end of the Apache Mountains (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b). Dalquest and Stangl (1984b) described the stratigraphy as consisting of four layers. The top layer is a black silt and contains a Holocene fauna later described by Dalquest and Stangl (1986). Below this black silt is an apparently sterile upper layer about 35 cm thick; non-stalactitic rock fragments are about 15-25 mm in diameter. Below this layer, and seemingly without a distinct boundary is a layer of smaller rock fragments averaging about 5-15 mm in diameter; fossils appeared to be limited to this layer. An approximately 30-cm thick, sterile layer underneath consisted of material the consistency of coarse sand; this layer is distinctly set off from the layer above.


The age of the fauna poses a problem because of the apparently incompatible members. Dalquest and Stangl believed the recovered fossils form a contemporaneous fauna since they occur together in a stratum bracketed by non-fossiliferous strata and with Holocene deposits above the uppermost. They accounted for this by noting that ice melting from glaciers in the Guadalupe Mountains produced "swift streams of cool water" (p. 453). They went on to propose a reconstruction of the environment (p. 454):

Cool streams with fringing borders of willows and meadowlands existed where there are now only dry washes, 10 km or more from the cave. The hillsides and aluvial [sic!] fans supported somewhat more vegetation, including more junipers and perhaps some other trees. The creosote bush flats existed as today, but soils were sandy on terraces closer to the streams. Some of the typical desert mammals, such as Merriam kangaroo rat and long-tailed grasshopper mouse, were just entering the area...The scarcity of the Merriam kangaroo rat and long-tailed grasshopper mouse suggest that cooler climate of the late Pleistocene was just giving way to the hot, desert climate of modern conditions."

There are several problems with this scenario, however. The Guadalupe Mountains were not glaciated (the nearest, small glacier was on Sierra Blanca considerably farther north) and area drainage originates locally and flows to the Pecos River and Rio Grande; there was no ice-melt water closer to the site than the Pecos River. Regional reconstructions of vegetation based on packrat midden data indicates creosotebush rare or absent in the area until well on into the Holocene. Large samples of Pleistocene microfossils from the Guadalupe Mountains area to the north suggest that the mixture of taxa recovered is unlikely to represent a single-age deposit.

The dilemma facing Dalquest and Stangl is appreciated. In light of the stratigraphy, they decided to go with contemporaneous deposition of the fauna. For reasons noted above, I take the opposite approach: that much of the deposit is Pleistocene, but that the fossiliferous layer was open to deposition well into the Holocene. Absence of fossils in the overlying stratum may indicate relatively rapid deposition under severe climatic conditions of the Holocene. The black silt top deposits may well be of historic age marking the destruction of vegetation with the over-stocking of livestock. Although there are no taxa guaranteeing that the Late Wisconsin is represented rather than earlier times, the scenario suggested by my approach would indicate that.

Dalquest and Stangl (1984b) believed that the small faunal members were deposited by Barn Owls (Tyto alba), thus accounting for the bias toward mammals of a size normally taken as prey by that bird. The taxon most out of place is Sorex palustris, otherwise reported from the Pleistocene of our region from Muskox Cave. Its presence implies permanent water flowing to the Pecos somewhere within about 10 miles of the cave, since Dalquest and Stangl estimated the hunting range of Tyto alba at 10 miles.

Stangl and Dalquest (1991) re-evaluated Sigmodon specimens after studying differences between S. hispidus and S. ochrognathus, concluding that one of 31 upper first molars represents the latter.



Lithobates sp.—Leopard Frogs (Parmley 1988)
Incilius nebulifer—Coastal Plain Toad (Parmley 1988)
Anaxyrus woodhousii—Woodhouse's Toad (Parmley 1988)


Crotaphytus sp.—Collared and Leopard Lizards (Parmley and Bahn 2012)
Phrynosoma modestum—Roundtail Horned Lizard (Parmley and Bahn 2012)
Phrynosoma cornutum—Texas Horned Lizard (Parmley and Bahn 2012)
Plestiodon obsoletus—Great Plains Skink (Parmley and Bahn 2012: cf.)

Eumeces cf. E. obsoletus

Aspidoscelis sp.—Whiptail Lizards (Parmley and Bahn 2012)

Cnemidophorus species indeterminate

Arizona elegans—Glossy Snake (Parmley 1990)
Bogertophis subocularis—Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Parmley 1990)
Coluber/Masticophis—Racer or Whipsnake (Parmley 1990)
Pantherophis emoryi—Great Plains Rat Snake (Parmley 1990): cf.)
Gyalopion canum—Plateau Hooknose Snake (Parmley 1990)
Lampropeltis alterna—Gray-banded Kingsnake (Parmley 1990)
Lampropeltis getula—Common Kingsnake (Parmley 1990)
Lampropeltis triangulum—Milk Snake (Parmley 1990)
Liochlorophis vernalis—Rough Green Snake (Parmley 1990)
Pituophis catenifer—Gopher Snake (Parmley 1990)
Rhinocheilus lecontei—Longnose Snake (Parmley 1990)
Sonora sp.—Ground Snakes (Parmley 1990)
Tantilla sp.—Black-headed Snakes (Parmley 1990)
Crotalus sp.—Rattlesnakes (Parmley 1990)
Diadophis punctatus—Ringneck Snake (Parmley 1990: cf.)
Hypsiglena jani—Chihuahuan Night Snake (Parmley 1990)
Nerodia erythrogaster—Plainbelly Water Snake (Parmley 1990)
Thamnophis marcianus—Checkered Garter Snake (Parmley 1990: cf.)


Cynomys ludovicianus—Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Marmota flaviventris—Yellow-bellied Marmot (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Xerospermophilus spilosoma—Spotted Ground Squirrel (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)

Spermophilus spilosoma

Otospermophilus variegatus—Rock Squirrel (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)

Spermophilus variegatus

Tamias canipes—Gray-footed Chipmunk (Dalquest and Stangl 1984)

Tamias cinereicollis

Dipodomys merriami—Merriam's Kangaroo Rat (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Dipodomys ordii—Ord's Kangaroo Rat (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Dipodomys spectabilis—Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Chaetodipus sp. (not C. hispidus)—Spiny Pocket Mice (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Chaetodipus hispidus—Hispid Pocket Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Perognathus flavus—Silky Pocket Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Cratogeomys castanops—Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Thomomys bottae—Botta's Pocket Gopher (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Microtus mogollonensis—Mogollon Vole (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Neotoma leucodon—White-toothed Woodrat (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Neotoma mexicana—Mexican Woodrat (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Neotoma micropus—Southern Plains Woodrat (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Onychomys arenicola—Mearn's Grasshopper Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Onychomys leucogaster—Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Peromyscus boylii—Brush Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Peromyscus eremicus—Cactus Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Peromyscus leucopus—White-footed Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Peromyscus maniculatus—Deer Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Peromyscus nasutus—Rock Squirrel (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Peromyscus pectoralis—White-ankled Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Reithrodontomys fulvescens—Fulvous Harvest Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984: cf.)
Reithrodontomys megalotis—Western Harvest Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Reithrodontomys montanus—Plains Harvest Mouse (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Sigmodon hispidus—Hispid Cotton Rat (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Sigmodon ochrognathus—Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat (Stangl and Dalquest 1991)
Erethizon dorsata—American Porcupine (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Lepus californicus—Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Sylvilagus audubonii—Desert Cottontail (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Sylvilagus robustus—Davis Mountains Cottontail (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Notiosorex dalquesti—Dalquest's Shrew (Carraway 2010)
Sorex neomexicanus—New Mexico Shrew (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b) (S. vagrans)
Sorex palustris—Water Shrew (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Eptesicus fuscus—Big Brown Bat (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Myotis occultus—Arizona Myotis (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b) (M. lucifugus)
Myotis velifer—Cave Myotis (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)
Lynx rufus—Bobcat (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b) (Felis rufus)
Mylohyus sp.—Long-nosed Peccary (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b)

Czaplewski (2012) speculates that the fragmentary remains probably represent Platygonus rather than Mylohyus

Capromeryx furcifer—Matthew's Pronghorn (Dalquest and Stangl 1984: cf.)

Literature. Carraway 2010; Czaplewski 2012; Dalquest and Stangl 1984b; Dalquest and Stangl 1986; Parmley 1988; Parmley 1990; Parmley and Bahn 2012; Stangl and Dalquest 1991.


Last Update: 31 Jan 2013