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States with the most dinosaur fossils

  • States with the most dinosaur fossils

    Humans' fascination with dinosaurs goes back at least 2,000 years to Chinese writings describing what were thought to be massive dragon bones. In the 17th century, an English museum curator discovered a large thigh bone he posited was from a human giant. The first scientific designation of a group of animals called dinosaurs came about in the 1840s. 1993's blockbuster “Jurassic Park” drove our 20th-century obsession with dinosaurs into overdrive. And with each new fossil discovery and dinosaur movie release, our intrigue with these prehistoric predators—some of which could eat a human within minutes—only grows.

    Every U.S. state has searched its soil for dinosaur fossils, but some states have more old dinosaur bones than others. Anyone lucky enough to stumble on dinosaur fossils is likely to strike pay dirt: Some investors are willing to pay more than $2 million a pop for mostly intact skeletons (much to the chagrin of paleontologists and fellow scientists everywhere). To determine which states have the most dinosaur fossils, Stacker consulted the Paleobiology Database (PBDB), a nonprofit public resource that brings together fossil records from research institutions around the world. Data is current as of February 2020. We pulled all records labeled "Dinosauria" (the dinosaur clade) and sorted them by state. It is important to note that these records do not comprehensively reflect all dinosaur fossil records in the U.S., but rather represent a sample via the fossils available in public collections.

    Seven states—Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin—have no dinosaur fossils recorded by the PBDB. These states were mostly below sea level during the time dinosaurs roamed the Earth, leaving little sediment to preserve fossils. Glacial erosion also contributed to the lack of bones.

    Stacker’s research for the relics in each state also includes the digital media source Thought Co. Additionally, state geological surveys like Maine explain how state terrain affected fossilization, while other sources explain prominent dinosaur periods which are broken down into Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods with subsets for each.

    Along with the most prominent time period, the genus with the most fossils is provided for each slide. A dinosaur’s genus encompasses multiple species with similar characteristics. Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, and Diplodocus are three of the nearly 300 valid dinosaur genera.

    Continue reading to discover which states have the most dinosaur fossils.

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  • #44. Wisconsin (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 0

    Where there is no rock, there are no dinosaur bones, which is the case in Wisconsin. Though containing no stone from the Permian period to Neogene age  (either from erosion or having never been there), the state is known for its small marine vertebrates proving water life from more than 500 million years ago. In the early Paleozoic period, Wisconsin was covered with shallow seas, leaving behind thousands of samplings including the state fossil Calymene, first collected in the 1830s.


  • #44. Vermont (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 0

    Vermont may have had megafauna mammals, but not dinosaurs. There is, however, the Charlotte whale, undeniably the state’s most significant find in a farm field in 1849. Darwin’s famous evolution theory was published after the discovery, which was approximately two mountain ranges from the nearest ocean. Discovering the Charlotte whale proved the state was once covered in glaciers (which, once retreated, made room for flooding from the Atlantic Ocean) and not home to deeply deposited rocks and dinosaur bones.


  • #44. Rhode Island (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 0

    Similar to other New England states, Rhode Island is devoid of prehistoric dinosaur fossils, but it has famous paleontologist David Fastovsky. The University of Rhode Island professor said that dinosaurs almost certainly dwelled in Rhode Island, but their footprints were destroyed by glaciers.


  • #44. New Hampshire (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 0

    The Granite State’s title alone explains why fossils are few and far between: Granite is an igneous rock formed by cooling lava, which cannot sustain fossils. That’s why out west, where there is a lot of sedimentary rock, fossils are much more prevalent. Additionally, acidic soil (like that in much of New Hampshire) does not keep bones well.


  • #44. Minnesota (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 0

    A fossilized dino claw with a tooth and vertebrae was discovered in 2015 in Minnesota, but the jury is still out on whether the artifact hitched a ride on a glacier or called the North Star State home. There’s no other evidence of dinosaurs but woolly mammoth and old bison fossils have been found in Minnesota, as well as others that date back as far as 540 million years ago.

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  • #44. Kentucky (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 0

    The University of Kentucky reports that while the state has no dinosaur fossils, it has fossils from as far back as 505 million years ago. Discoveries are happening in real time, too: A 330-million-year-old shark head fossil was discovered in January 2020 inside a Kentucky cave. For what it lacks in actual fossils, the Bluegrass State makes up for with Dinosaur World.


  • #44. Iowa (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 0

    Iowa is home to one of the world’s biggest untouched gypsum deposits found at Fort Dodge Formation, and the state is second in the U.S. for gypsum production. Even though a handful of fossils discovered in the state suggest dinosaurs roamed here, there is no confirmation that Iowa served as home base like adjacent states. The Fossil and Prairie Center in Rockford invites visitors to search for fossils along miles of trails.


  • #41. West Virginia (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 1
    - Genus with the most fossils: Ectopistes (1 fossil)
    - Time period with the most fossils: Pleistocene (1 fossil)

    Known for its “bottom-heavy” geologic record, which dates back as far as 400 million years, West Virginia has significant amphibian and tetrapod fossils. The state also has a Megalonyx, the fossil recorded in PBDB, which was described by President Thomas Jefferson as the Giant Ground Sloth and today serves as the state fossil. West Virginia is also home to the Geological and Economic Survey Museum, which explains the lack of dinosaur fossils. The reason? West Virginia’s sedimentary rocks predate dinosaurs, while the state’s Mesozoic rocks have long-since eroded along with any fossilized evidence.


  • #41. New York (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 1
    - Genus with the most fossils: Grallator (1 fossil)
    - Time period with the most fossils: Norian (1 fossil)

    The prehistoric fossil recorded in PBDB still remains third against two more popular marine-dwelling vertebrae relics found in the Empire State. Nonetheless, the only type of dinosaur fossil in the state belongs to Coelophysis, also called Grallator, which left 200-million-old Triassic tracks in Rockland County, proving its prehistoric presence. The New York dino is so famous, even Kylie Jenner grabbed a selfie with the renowned carnivore double.


  • #41. Indiana (tie)

    - Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 1
    - Genus with the most fossils: Not available
    - Time period with the most fossils: Late Hemphillian (1 fossil)

    PBDB only documents one dinosaur fossil in the Hoosier State, but it is home to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis: the largest children’s museum in the world, and one of the best spots on the globe for dinosaur fans, according to Fodor’s. Indiana is notable for megafauna mammals and tiny invertebrate relics from the region, which was once covered in glaciers.

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