Were there dinosaurs in new york state
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Just as rocks and rock strata can tell us the story of geological events that happened hundreds of millions, even billions, of years ago, enabling us to reconstruct episodes in the evolution of our planet, the fossils embedded in rocks enable us to reconstruct a history of life on earth.
In New York, the fossil record spans half a billion years. Not all geological periods are represented, but fossils dating to the Ordovocian, Silurian, and Devonian periods of the Paleozoic, and the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic, are abundant in the New York region.
The fossils were preserved in shale, a sedimentary rock that formed in the Taconic Orogeny, a mountain-building event that marked the creation of the the supercontinent Pangaea. As the oceanic plate slid beneath the continental plate of what would become eastern North America, a volcanic island arc formed offshore, its volcanic eruptions spewing ash into a shallow marine basin to the west.
By the Late Ordovician, the volcanic island arc collided with the eastern edge of the continent, pushing up mountains and crumpling and deepening the inland marine basin.
Over eons, sediments washed down from the mountains into the basin, forming muddy deposits. The deposits of mud and ash that accumulated through tens of millions of years eventually hardened into the fossiliferous shale that Beecher discovered. A deep sea covered the region, harboring in its waters a wealth of invertebrate species: many species of trilobites hunted and scavenged the sea floor; worms and clams burrowed in the mud; brachiopods attached themselves to shells that littered the sea floor, opening their valves to filter the water for food; colorful crinoids sea lilies waved their flower-like stalks in the sea currents; predatory starfish patrolled the muddy bottom while squid-like nautiloids propelled themselves through the water with their long tentacles, seeking prey; coelenterate polyps built their coral houses on the sea floor while zooids built huge graptolite colonies that floated like rafts on the surface.
The trilobite species Triarthrus was by far the dominant species, able to survive deep-water environments low in oxygen. During the Silurian, sea levels rose, inundating western and central New York State with an inland sea. The Taconic Highlands continued to erode, shedding sediments into the marine basin, over time forming shale deposits. The most famous deposit of the Silurian period in New York is the Rochester Shale, discovered when excavation was begun for the Erie Canal in the s.
James Hall, a paleontologist known for his 8-volume work New York Paleontology , conducted in-depth studies of the fossils. The fossils revealed an abundance of diverse marine animals, including crinoids, annelids worms , gastropods, mollusks, brachiopods, corals, and trilobites.
Collecting work near the quarry was begun by Carlton Brett in the late s, when as a doctoral student he discovered fossils in a nearby creek, and was continued by him and his students into the s; when the Caleb Quarry site opened to paleontologists in , a number of fossil experts began collecting and assembling a beautiful record of Silurian life as revealed in the Rochester Shale.
Their ongoing enterprise is exhibited on their website primitive worlds. Two deposits of limestone known to paleontologists as the Helderberg Group and the Onandaga Limestone were formed in the inland sea. Marine life was still the dominant form of life, and trilobites were still abundant. But invertebrates had begun to crawl onto the land and even take to the skies. The oldest insect fossils date to mya, trigonotarbids — affectionately known to fossil-hunters as trigs — have features that place them as precursors to spiders, except that they lack poison fangs and spinnerets, and have complex eyes.
In million-year-old Devonian rocks discovered by Patricia Bonamo and Doug Grierson near Gilboa, a rich fossil trove in central upstate New York, were microscopic mites with hair and claws; false scorpions with pincer-like jaws, specialized teeth, and sensory hairs adapted to air; minute myrapod precursors of the six-foot-long millipede-like insects that rose to dominance in the Carboniferous age; and trigs.
All were predatory animals that must have pursued their prey onto land. The Devonian has often been referred to as the Age of Fishes, but this was also the time plants began to colonize land.
From the fossils of Gilboa we can reconstruct that early botanical ecosystem. The petrified stumps, discovered in the early s when they began excavating for the dam, are dated as million years old. The tropical forest that covered the marshy lowlands was dominated by towering foot-tall club mosses and 50 to 90 foot tall horsetails.
The club-mosses, or lycopsids, were bizarre-looking trees with scaly-barked trunks that bore leaf scars in spiral patterns, flourished branches from their crowns, and sprouted spiky leaves; their descendants are the ground-pines of temperate forests. The giant horsetails, or sphenopsids, had trunks jointed like bamboo, with branches extending from each raised joint, or node, and bearing circlets of leaves and cones; their descendants are the little horsetails commonly found along the edges of swamps.
These trees reproduced by means of spores, which were dependent on water to reproduce. Later, during the Mississipian and Pennsylvanian periods collectively known as the Carboniferous , seed-ferns colonized vast tracts of lowland tracts that extended away from the marshy edges of the sea.
The evolution of seeds, which encased the embryonic plants in a protective covering, enabled plants to reproduce in drier habitats. The decayed remains of these trees would be drowned, buried, and compressed in the great coal seams that would fuel the industrial age. Because of severe erosion, no strata or fossils from the Carboniferous are preserved in New York. These primordial forests were inhabited by insects ranging from tiny soil-dwellers described above to huge flyers like dragonflies with inch wingspans; amphibians like the carnivorous six-foot-long Eryops, whose descendants are frogs and salamanders; and by the Pennsylvanian, mammal-like reptiles such as the eight-foot-long vegetarian Scutosaurus — an egg-laying precursor of the dinosaur.
Just as plants had evolved seeds, animals evolved eggs with hard shells, which freed reptiles from dependency on water to reproduce. When joined to the supercontinent of Pangaea around mya, eastern North America was an arid interior land of rugged mountains and fault-formed valleys. Rainy seasons alternated with dry seasons. Heavy rains flushed sediments down the flanks of mountains into rivers and rift-valley lakes called playas; when dry season came, the lakes shrank and muds baked in the subtropical sun.
Across these muds the earliest known dinosaurs — small, meat-eating reptiles — left their three-toed bipedal tracks. In , a fossil dinosaur of Triassic age was unearthed in a sandstone formation beneath basalt at the base of the New Jersey Palisades.
William Matthews of the American Museum of Natural History identified it as a phytosaur, and it was named Rutiodon manhattanensis , a crocodile-like phytosaur of the Late Triassic. Toward the end of the Triassic, the region became more arid, signaling a major catastrophe: the red beds of the Newark Strata reveal a major change in fossils, marking a global extinction event known as the Triassic-Jurrasic boundary, which marks the onset of the breakup of Pangaea. Perhaps the extinction event opened a niche for the dinosaurs, which now emerged as the dominant species on earth.
By the Jurassic, the dinosaurs had evolved into the monsters we like to fantasize about: the long-necked, herbivorous sauropods and sharp-toothed carnivorous theropods of the Jurassic; by the Cretaceous, the thundering giants Tyrannosaurus and Gorgosaurus emerged on the scene. Fossils of Cretaceous flora found on Long Island and adjacent regions, especially New Jersey, are abundant, revealing an incredible diversity of plants. In , paleobotanist Charles Arthur Hollick collected hundreds of fossils from Cretaceous beds in New Jersey and Long Island, identifying species.
Many are plants that grow in sub-tropical conditions — eucalyptus, ficus, and cycads — but some we find in our own temperate forests today: sassafras, viburnum, amelanchier, kalmia, magnolia, andromeda, laurel, oak — all grew in the New York region during the Cretaceous period. The Gingko tree, now an exotic botanical specimen and street tree, was once a native tree of the New York Cretaceous. Also contained in the Cretaceous strata are lenses of lignite, a kind of soft coal rich in Cretaceous-age plant fossil fragments, pollen, and spores, microfossils that enable us to reconstruct the plant life of the Late Cretaceous.
Between 70 and 65 mya, North America was split in two by a vast inland sea, and the young Atlantic was widening as continents began to assume their present positions. The New York coastal region was a sub-tropical zone with forests, swamps and marshes covering a coastal plain.
Many of the plants would be familiar to us, while others are now extinct. David Grimaldi, then curator of entomology at the museum, and cohorts Kevin Nixon and William Crepet, both of Cornell, discovered a fossil trove preserved in million-year-old amber.
The amber, embedded in ancient clay deposits, revealed species of plants and animals hitherto unknown to science. Insects include ancestral bee and ant species, indicating the co-evolution of flowering plants and some pollinating insects. Among the fossils is the oldest known flowering plant specimen: a 90 million-year-old cluster of tiny oak flowers. To reconstruct Cretaceous animal life, the fossil record in New York is sparse, so we look to the fossil finds in New Jersey and Connecticut.
Excavations in the Raritan and Magothy formations of the Late Cretaceous, from Raritan Bay southwestward, have yielded abundant animal fossils, both terrestrial and marine. I paraphrase and abbreviate his colorful and detailed description, as follows.
On the surface of a warm shallow sea floated phytoplankton, dominated by microscopic algae coccolithophorids, so thickly populating the waters that when they died, their minute shells drifted down onto the sea floor, over eons forming deep chalk deposits.
At the base of the marine food web because of their ability to convert solar energy into carbon, the phytoplankton were consumed by zooplankton, dominated by shell-secreting foraminifera.
The plankton were consumed by oysters, clams, and mussels, and in turn, these shellfish were consumed by skates, rays, and primitive sharks — and a new kind of gastropod, a carnivorous snail, the whelk. Other snails grazed the seafloor for algae, and lobsters and crabs scuttled about. Offshore, cephalopods propelled themselves through the water: prehistoric squids, the belemnites, housed themselves in hollow conical shells known to fossil collectors as squid pens; ammonites encased themselves in their coiled chambered shells.
The Cretaceous is known as the Age of Reptiles , and indeed reptiles dominated the seas and land. In the skies glided the flying reptile, the pterosaur. On land, hadrosaurs duck-billed dinosaurs browsed in the rich wetland flora along the coast, probably hunted by carnivorous dinosaurs. At least five species of dinosaurs inhabited the region at the end of the Cretaceous — on the eve of their demise. The extinction event that marked end of the Mesozoic era and beginning of a new geological era, the Cenozoic, dealt a death blow to more than half of marine species and a large percentage of terrestrial species, including all the dinosaurs, except birds.
The asteroid, about the size of Manhattan, blasted tons of debris into the atmosphere, blocking the sunlight, triggering a nuclear winter lasting years. This was the beginning of the Cenozoic era, known as the Age of Mammals. Gallagher, William. W hen Dinosaurs Roamed New Jersey. Hall, James. Geological Survey of the State of NY, Hernick, Linda van Aller. The Gilboa Fossil s. New York State Museum Circular McCully, Betsy. Silurian fossil of Eurypterus remipes sea scorpion , by Karl Wilson, Eophrynus prestvicii reconstruction drawn by Buckland, , and colorized by Jason A.
Dunlop and Russell J. Garwood [CC BY 4. This trig was found in a coal seam in England dating to the Carboniferous. Bartholomew, [Public Domain]. Horsetails Equisetum species. Cretaceous bee fossil Plumalexius rasnitsyni sp. Black-bellied plover in winter.
Were there dinosaurs in new york state. New York Fossils
The prehistory of the Garden State might as well be called The Tale of Two Jerseys: For much of the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras, the southern half of New Jersey was completely underwater, while the northern half of the state was home to all kinds of terrestrial creatures, including dinosaurs, prehistoric crocodiles and closer to the modern era giant megafauna mammals like the Woolly Mammoth.
On the following slides, you’ll discover the most notable dinosaurs and animals that lived in New Jersey in prehistoric times. See a list of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals discovered in each U.
You probably weren’t aware that the very first tyrannosaur to be discovered in the United States was Dryptosaurus, and not the much more famous Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The remains of Dryptosaurus “tearing lizard” were excavated in New Jersey in , by the famous paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope , who later sealed his reputation with more extensive discoveries in the American West. Dryptosaurus, by the way, originally went by the much more euphonious name Laelaps. The official state fossil of New Jersey, Hadrosaurus remains a poorly understood dinosaur, albeit one that has lent its name to a vast family of late Cretaceous plant-eaters the hadrosaurs , or duck-billed dinosaurs.
To date, only one incomplete skeleton of Hadrosaurus has ever been discovered–by the American paleontologist Joseph Leidy , near the town of Haddonfield–leading paleontologists to speculate that this dinosaur might better be classified as a species or specimen of another hadrosaur genus.
One of the smallest, and one of the most fascinating, fossils discovered in the Garden State is Icarosaurus –a small, gliding reptile, vaguely resembling a moth, that dates to the middle Triassic period. The type specimen of Icarosaurus was discovered in a North Bergen quarry by a teenage enthusiast, and spent the next 40 years at the American Museum of Natural History in New York until it was purchased by a private collector who immediately donated it back to the museum for further study.
Given how many states its remains have been discovered in, the foot-long, ton Deinosuchus must have been a common sight along the lakes and rivers of late Cretaceous North America, where this prehistoric crocodile snacked on fish, sharks, marine reptiles, and pretty much anything that happened to cross its path.
Unbelievably, given its size, Deinosuchus wasn’t even the biggest crocodile that ever lived–that honor belongs to the slightly earlier Sarcosuchus , also known as the SuperCroc. You may be familiar with the Coelacanth , the allegedly extinct fish that experienced a sudden resurrection when a living specimen was caught off the coast of South Africa in The fact is, though, that most genera of Coelacanths truly did go extinct tens of millions of years ago; a good example is Diplurus, hundreds of specimens of which have been found preserved in New Jersey sediments.
Coelacanths, by the way, were a type of lobe-finned fish closely related to the immediate ancestors of the first tetrapods. New Jersey’s Jurassic and Cretaceous fossil beds have yielded the remains of a large variety of prehistoric fish , ranging from the ancient skate Myliobatis to the ratfish ancestor Ischyodus to three separate species of Enchodus better known as the Saber-Toothed Herring , not to mention the obscure genus of Coelacanth mentioned in the previous slide.
Many of these fish were preyed on by the sharks of southern New Jersey next slide , when the bottom half of the Garden State was submerged under water. One doesn’t normally associate the interior of New Jersey with deadly prehistoric sharks–which is why it’s surprising that this state has yielded so many of these fossilized killers, including specimens of Galeocerdo, Hybodus and Squalicorax. The last member of this group is the only Mesozoic shark known conclusively to have preyed on dinosaurs, since the remains of an unidentified hadrosaur possibly the Hadrosaurus described in slide 2 were discovered in one specimen’s stomach.
Starting in the midth century, in Greendell, American Mastodon remains have been periodically recovered from various New Jersey townships, often in the wake of construction projects.
These specimens date from the late Pleistocene epoch, when Mastodons and, to a lesser extent, their Woolly Mammoth cousins tramped across the swamps and woodlands of the Garden State–which was much colder tens of thousands of years ago than it is today! When you visit the site, Dotdash Meredith and its partners may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Cookies collect information about your preferences and your devices and are used to make the site work as you expect it to, to understand how you interact with the site, and to show advertisements that are targeted to your interests.
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