Which States in the USA Don’t Have Dinosaur Fossils?
Everything Dinosaur’s recent article on the describing of a dinosaur fossil bone found on Sucia Island (Washington State) set team members thinking. The fossil, which is believed to represent the partial left femur of a tyrannosaurid was the first dinosaur bone to be scientifically described from Washington State. A number of media sites and scientific publications that covered this story listed Washington State as the latest and thirty-seventh U.S. State to have had dinosaur fossils discovered within its boundaries. Of the fifty States that make up the USA, more than two-thirds of them are associated with the Dinosauria, either body or trace fossils or both.
The Partial Left Femur Identified as Tyrannosaur Fossil
Picture Credit: PLOS One with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur
To read Everything Dinosaur’s article on the fossil discovery: The First Dinosaur Fossil Described from Washington State
So what about the remaining thirteen States in America, those inferred not to have dinosaur fossils? Is this a case of there being none found as yet or does the fossil discovery in Washington State represent, in all likelihood, the last State in the United States to be added to the “dinosaur club”?
Let’s look at this in a little more detail.
Which States Don’t Contain Dinosaur Fossils?
Identifying the thirteen States* that don’t contain dinosaur fossils is quite a tough ask for a company this side of the Atlantic. However, team members at Everything Dinosaur have been putting their heads together and have come up with the following list (which may or may not be accurate).
- Hawaii – the Hawaiian archipelago was the fiftieth and most recent State to join the USA. As it is almost entirely made up of volcanic rock (igneous) and since it is a relatively recent geological feature, probably less than six million years old, we can state with confidence that no dinosaur fossil material will be found in the island’s rock formations. That’s the easiest one out of the way.
- Florida – the “Sunshine State” it might attract millions of tourists but there are very probably no dinosaur fossils to be found. The landmass we know as Florida today did not form in the Mesozoic.
- Louisiana – in the north-western portion of the State, there are some small outcrops of marine shales that were deposited in the Late Cretaceous. As far as we know, no dinosaur fossils have been associated with this strata (located around Bienville Parish). It is extremely unlikely that dinosaur fossils could be found in Louisiana, but it could happen.
- Mississippi** – the Mississippi river and delta deposits are far to recent to provide the opportunity to find dinosaur fossils. However, in the far north-east of the State there are small exposed areas of Upper Cretaceous aged marine deposits, predominately chalk. As far as we know no dinosaur fossils have been found and it is extremely unlikely, however, if you were to go and look, try around Ponotoc and Union Counties – we wish you luck. South-east USA sorted (we think).
- West Virginia – moving up the eastern seaboard of the United States, the next candidate is West Virginia. As far as we know at Everything Dinosaur, there are no sedimentary rocks dating from the Mesozoic to be found in this State, erosion and other forces have removed them, therefore no dinosaur fossils.
- Rhode Island – the smallest State in the USA. Triassic and Jurassic sedimentary deposits are absent (we think), very few Cretaceous outcrops present, so no dinosaur fossils.
- New Hampshire – erosion of sedimentary materials and intrusions of igneous and metamorphic rocks leaves virtually no Mesozoic aged sedimentary formations in the State. We don’t think any dinosaur fossils have been found here.
- Vermont – Triassic and Jurassic aged sediments eroded away and very little Cretaceous aged deposits exposed. All of these Cretaceous deposits not fossiliferous, so no dinosaur fossils as far as we know discovered in Vermont.
- Maine – in the far north-east of the United States there is a huge gap in the geological record with most Late Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic fossils eroded away (blame the glaciers and so forth). As a result, once again, as far as we know dinosaur fossils recorded from the State of Maine = zero. So that’s the eastern seaboard and the far north-east taken care off.
- Michigan – still in the Eastern Time Zone, but no dinosaur fossils have been found on either peninsula that make up this State. Lots of invertebrates et al, but no dinosaurs (we think).
- Ohio – thanks to glaciation and other forms or erosion, Mesozoic aged sedimentary rocks are virtually absent. Dinosaurs did probably roam in this part of the world but their fossils have long since be eroded away.
- Indiana – just like its eastern neighbour Ohio, blame the glaciers for the loss of the Mesozoic strata. So no dinosaur fossils in Indiana either, but just like in Ohio, they did probably live in this neck of the woods.
- Kentucky – south of Indiana to the “Bluegrass State”. As far as we can work out from our own notes, there are few Mesozoic rocks exposed (eroded away no doubt). Some Cretaceous aged outcrops are present and we have some tentative notes of plant fossils from the Cretaceous, but alas, no evidence of the Dinosauria. Hold on a minute, that should be it, but we still have some more States to go.
- Illinois – into the Central Time Zone but just like its eastern neighbour Indiana, erosion has led to the removal of much of the Mesozoic strata. Some Cretaceous-aged deposits can be found in the south of this State, but as far as we know, although dinosaurs may have lived in this part of the world there is no fossil evidence for them.
- Wisconsin – substantial erosion has removed the dinosaur fossil bearing strata, so according to our notes and database, there are no dinosaur fossils associated with the State of Wisconsin.
States in America with Dinosaur Fossils (2015)
Picture Credit: Wikipedia Commons (map) Everything Dinosaur (annotations)
According to our research, the figure of thirteen U.S. States not having dinosaur fossils associated with them is inaccurate. Of course, our own database could be wrong but we make it fifteen States without any evidence of the Dinosauria. Thanks to mountain building, glaciation, the construction of huge urban developments and the fact that parts of the United States simply did not exist during the time of the dinosaurs, these are the States that lack any dinosaur fossils.
We admit, we could have got this wrong and we would welcome any comments to help provide a more accurate picture.
Thanks to J. Slattery for helping with this, we have received information about Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils from Mississippi**. It seems that in some uncovered outcrops of Upper Cretaceous age which represents shallow marine deposits, fragmentary dinosaur fossils (teeth and bones) have been found as a result of what we tend to call “bloat and float”. A dinosaur carcase being washed out to sea and then being scavenged before sinking and settlement.