Teleostean otoliths have been recovered from the upper portion of the Woodbury Formation (early-middle Campanian) at the Stone Bridge locality in southern New Jersey, and their occurrence is highly significant for several reasons. First, otoliths are virtually unknown in the New Jersey Cretaceous since most of the formations have been extensively leached, which destroys the aragonitic otoliths. Second, the number of otoliths obtained from the Woodbury Formation is unprecedented with 3,555 specimens recovered, which represents the largest Cretaceous otolith assemblage ever described from North America. Finally, the otoliths are fairly well preserved allowing taxonomic assignment. These factors coupled with the early-middle Campanian age (approximately 83.6 ± 0.2 Ma to 77.9 ± 0.2 Ma) result in one of the oldest, most prolific fish assemblages represented by otoliths, not just in North America, but in the world. Otoliths may indicate the presence of at least 29 teleostean taxa representing 14 families including megalopids, albulids (including pterothrissids), gonostomatids, aulopids, paraulopids, trachichthyids, berycoids, pempherids, and several percomorphs. Sedimentological and paleontological data, including the otoliths, suggest a shallow, marine paleoenvironment (less than 100 m) influenced by major rivers and deltas. The evolutionary implications of the Woodbury otolith assemblage are quite important. Otoliths of percomorphs are present and provide evidence, not yet indicated by skeletal remains, that extend into the Campanian the known time ranges of several taxa. The Woodbury perciform otoliths corroborate several recent major molecular dating studies of teleosts (DNA sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear genes with fossil age constraints). This study also represents the first systematic study of Cretaceous otoliths from New Jersey and contributes substantially to a better understanding of the Late Cretaceous teleosts in New Jersey.
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Vol. 165 • No. 1