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Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Special Studies: M.S.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Matthew Tornow

Second Advisor

Mark Muniz

Third Advisor

Bill Cook

Fourth Advisor

Tafline Arbor

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Paleoenvironment of the Whitehead Creek Locality


Toward the end of the Middle Eocene (40-37mya), the environment started to decline on a global scale. It was becoming more arid, the tropical forests were disappearing from the northern latitudes, and there was an increase in seasonality. Research of the Chadronian (37-33.7mya) in the Great Plains region of North America has documented the persistence of several mammalian taxa (e.g. primates) that are extinct in other parts of North America. This research aims to investigate the paleoenvironment of the Whitehead Creek locality, Nebraska, one Chadronian-age locality within the Great Plains, in order to better understand the circumstances surrounding the persistence of relict taxa during the late Eocene. To address the paleoenvironment at Whitehead Creek, this research evaluates locomotor guilds of 56 astragalar morphospecies, 43 calcaneal morphospecies, and a sample of 55 terminal phalanges. To evaluate paleoenvironment at Whitehead Creek, locomotor frequencies established for fossil morphospecies were compared with those found in 25 modern sites, representing a wide range of environments, using Sørenson’s similarity index and the Euclidean Distance method. Results indicate that small mammals (< 1,000g) at Whitehead Creek practiced a wide range of locomotor activities including leaping, digging, climbing, and running in both arboreal and terrestrial habitats. Comparisons suggest that a gallery forest in the Cerrado of Brazil is a good modern analog for Whitehead Creek. The mixture of locomotor categories found at Whitehead Creek suggest that Whitehead Creek was a mosaic of water, overbanks, closed canopy forests (with an herbaceous understory), bamboo thickets and open woodlands.


I would like to thank my academic advisor, Dr. Matthew Tornow, and my outside committee member, Dr. Tafline Arbor. Without them, I would not have a thesis to complete and I would not even be in graduate school. Thank you. I would also like to thank my other graduate committee members, Dr. Mark Muñiz and Dr. Bill Cook, for helping me understand the theoretical concepts behind my project and for helping me with the statistics. Thank you to all of my graduate committee members for helping me and guiding me along the path towards completion of my thesis; all of my most sincere thanks for your support these past few years.

I would like to recognize and thank my strongest support system, my family and friends. I would like to thank my mother, Michelle Mills, father, John Mills and my brother, Jonathon Mills, for being very supportive of me these past few years and for providing me with a lot of encouragement. I would also like to thank Mary Otremba in the Anthropology Department office for being an awesome friend, one whose given me a lot of support and encouragement these past few years. Mary has taught me that it is okay to take a break and do something for myself. She has also taught me to keep my head up and smile. Thank you, Mary.



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