During the Late Devonian, in what is now northcentral Pennsylvania, slow moving streams meandered across the plain of the "Catskill" Delta. A varied fish fauna lived in these streams, and their remains are entombed in the ancient stream channel and floodplain sediments. In the 1830's, English railroad engineer Richard Cowling Taylor visited the coal mining community of Blossburg and remarked on the analogy between the Old Red Sandstone of England and that found near Blossburg. Not long afterwards, James Hall (1811-1898), best known for his work on Paleozoic invertebrates of New York, also visited Blossburg to clear up vexing boundary problems in the New York formations. He obtained fish scales from the red sandstones, many of which he identified as scales of Holoptychus nobilissimus, a crossopterygian fish described by Louis Agassiz in 1839. In his annual report for 1839 to the New York Legislature, Hall also took note of some large scales, which were unlike any previously described. Under pressure from the Governor, Hall, like the other survey scientists, had to submit timely reports even if studies were incomplete, and he hurriedly described the new scales, referring them to a new genus and species, Sauritolepis taylori. In his final survey report (1843). Hall dealt more fully with the new fish, renaming it Sauripteris taylori based on the fin structure, the significance of which he had not earlier recognized. The Blossburg fishes did not languish in obscurity; James DeKay referred to them in his checklist of fishes of New York, as did Charles Lyell in his 1845 Travels in North America. In 1890 John Strong Newberry placed the fish fossils in the Lower Carboniferous; he also described several new species. Hall's handling of the fossil fish he had before him and, indeed, the reasons for entering Pennsylvania in the first place, are emblematic of the way much science was practiced in the first half of the 19th century. Further, recent field work in the Blossburg area shows Hall's astuteness as a field geologist for he correctly placed the fish in the Upper Devonian, although in this region the Upper Devonian-Lower Carboniferous boundary is not well defined.
Fishes of the Old Red Sandstone and Systemic Boundaries Blossburg, Pennsylvania 1830-1900
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Alan Leviton, Michele Aldrich; Fishes of the Old Red Sandstone and Systemic Boundaries Blossburg, Pennsylvania 1830-1900. Earth Sciences History 1 January 1992; 11 (1): 21–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.17704/eshi.11.1.hwg6126841j51172
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