A fossil and zooarchaeological history of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) in the southeastern United States
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Richard Franz; I. R. Quitmyer
Publication Year: 2005

Cataloging Information

  • agriculture
  • archaeological sites
  • Aspidoscelis
  • biogeography
  • CL (Carapace length)
  • coastal plain
  • community ecology
  • distribution
  • disturbance
  • droughts
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • evolution
  • fire adaptations (plants)
  • fire dependent species
  • fire frequency
  • fire regimes
  • flatwoods
  • Florida
  • fossils
  • freshwater
  • Geomys
  • Georgia
  • Gopherus berlandieri
  • Gopherus polyphemus
  • Gopherus polyphemus
  • Hesperotestudo
  • Heterodon crassiscutata
  • Heterodon nasicus
  • Heterodon simus
  • histories
  • land use
  • marshlands
  • mesic soils
  • Mississippi
  • paleoecology
  • paleontology
  • Peromyscus
  • Pinus clausa
  • Pinus palustris
  • Pituophis
  • Pleistocene
  • Popomys
  • population ecology
  • prehistoric fires
  • Rana capito
  • reptiles
  • rivers
  • Scaphiopus
  • scrub
  • small mammals
  • South Carolina
  • Spilogale
  • Stilosoma
  • taxonomy
  • Thomomys
  • topography
  • tortoise
  • wildlife
  • xeric soils
  • zooarchaeology
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 44049
Tall Timbers Record Number: 19347
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals-F
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Specimens of fossil gopher tortoises (Gopherus) were collected from five late Pliocene, two early Pleistocene, five middle Pleistocene, and 52 late Pleistocene sites in 18 counties in Florida, one county in Georgia, three in South Carolina, and one in Mississippi. Occurrences of fossil Gopherus polyphemus in Lowndes County, Mississippi, and Charleston, Colleton, and Horry counties, South Carolina, represent extralimital records outside the current geographic range of the species. The extensive fossil record indicates G. polyphemus has been part of the xeric-adapted fauna of the southeastern coastal plain for at least two million years. The majority of the Florida records are from Alachua and Marion counties. This concentration corresponds to the high frequency of late Pleistocene fossil deposits in solution features associated with limestone quarries at Arredondo, Haile, and Reddick. A query of 609 sites in the zooarchaeological database of the Environmental Archaeology laboratory at the Florida Museum of Natural History was made to determine the presence of G. polyphemus in 67 archaeological sites from the southeastern United States dating from the latest Pleistocene to the late 19th century. The zooarchaeology collections are heavily weighted in favor of sites from Florida and Georgia. These data are not all inclusive of sites from the Southeast, but present a representative record of the association of this species with humans for nearly 12,000 years. Specimens of G. polyphemus from archeological sites are known from 20 Florida counties and one in Georgia. Abstract reproduced as published in Florida Museum of Natural History Bulletin.

Online Link(s):
Franz, R., and I. R. Quitmyer. 2005. A fossil and zooarchaeological history of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) in the southeastern United States. v. 45, no. 4, p. 179-199.