The ancient history of Florida as a land is rife with turmoil. At some times, the landmass was not even connected to what is now North America. At other times, the area that would later become Florida was underwater. As one might imagine, the constant upheaval was not very helpful for the development of fossils. In fact, the list of dinosaurs that lived in Florida is sparse due to the poor fossil of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras.
Why was the fossil record so poor? What evidence exists of the dinosaurs in Florida? Let’s find out.
What Is Florida’s State Dinosaur?
Florida does not have a state dinosaur because no dinosaurs that lived in Florida left fossil evidence. Instead, Florida has a state stone. The state stone in Florida is agatized coral. Interestingly, that makes the coral remains a type of fossil.
People have put forth other suggestions for state fossils in Florida. However, no state fossil has been named yet, but the future could change that fact.
Many states that were home to dinosaurs have chosen to designate a state dinosaur or a state fossil of dinosaur tracks. However, that’s not the case with Florida because no dinosaur fossils exist in this area. At least, no fossils have been found yet.
What Do We Know About Dinosaurs that Lived in Florida?
Dinosaurs may have lived in Florida at some point throughout its history. However, the majority of the state was underwater until the latter portion of the Cenozoic era, about 30 to 23 million years ago. Given that terrestrial dinosaurs died 66 million years ago, it’s unlikely that any dinosaur fossils will be found in this part of the country.
Northern Florida was covered by a sea at some point during the late Cretaceous, connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf Trough. At some points in time, the water was very deep, but geological uplifts turned the area into an increasingly shallow sea.
Florida’s geological history is especially interesting when one considers that Florida was not originally a part of the North American landmass.
Although scientists have not found dinosaur fossils in this area, Florida is a trove of other vertebrate fossils!
5 Prehistoric Creatures That Lived in Florida
Even though we lack data about any dinosaurs that lived in Florida, that doesn’t mean scientists know nothing of the state’s past inhabitants. After Florida became a dry landmass, various animals flocked to the state. Many of them left behind fossils and pseudo-fossils that tell of their existence.
In fact, Florida has one of the best vertebrate fossil records in the United States. Paleontologists and laypeople alike pull vast numbers of fossils from Florida’s soil every year. Consider some of the prehistoric creatures that once lived in Florida!
1. American Mastodon
The American Mastodon was a very large mammal that lived for over 20 million years until it was driven to extinction about 10,500 years ago. These relatives of the modern elephant once stood between 9 and 11 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed between 17,000 and 24,000 pounds.
These massive creatures had large, curved tusks that helped them fend off predators. They lived in herds and primarily lived in forested areas.
2. Dire Wolves
Although it’s fun to imagine dire wolves as being similar to those shown in A Game of Thrones, the true animals weren’t so robust. Dire wolves lived about 125,000 to 9,500 years ago.
Based on their skull size, it’s estimated that they had a shoulder height of about 3.1 feet and weighed between 150 and 200 pounds. An exceptionally large dire wolf fossil was found in Florida, and that one could have weighed 200 pounds.
3. American Lion
An American lion called Panthera atrox roamed America from 340,000 years ago to 11,000 years ago. This creature was about 25% bigger than the modern African lion, so it was one of the larger predators to stalk this land.
This creature could have stood about 4 feet tall and measured up to 8 feet long. Scientists estimate these animals weighed up to 930 pounds. This mammal was certainly larger than a dire wolf, but it still wasn’t the biggest cat to live in the U.S.
4. Columbian Mammoth
The Columbian mammoth was another large animal that lived during the last ice age. They were one of the largest mammals to live in the area. Columbian mammoths could grow about 13 feet tall and could weigh as much as 22,000 pounds. They had very long, heavy, and curved tusks that could grow up to 16 feet long!
Like many other members of this list, they died out around 11,500 years ago due to changes in climate and human interactions.
Eremotherium was a species of giant ground sloth that lived in the south of North America and the northernmost reaches of South America. Depending on the source, these creatures could have measured about 15 to 20 feet long! They were also said to stand over 6 feet tall on all four feet and over 13 feet tall when standing on two legs!
They could have weighed up to 8,000 pounds or more! To top it all, this creature had claws that measured about 7 inches long. Humans possibly contributed to the extinction of these animals since the giant sloths disappeared around the time that humans arrived.
While no evidence of dinosaurs that lived in Florida exists, humans have found a lot of evidence of other creatures!
Where Can You See Fossils of Dinosaurs That Lived in Florida?
Unfortunately, you can’t see fossils of dinosaurs that lived in Florida. However, you can see fossils of the vertebrates that once lived in Florida. The best place to see fossils is the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.
This museum has a wide variety of fossils available for people to see, including the American mastodon, the giant ground sloth, and even the Megalodon. Visitors can learn a lot about the different animals that lived in Florida!
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, but it’s open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Elenarts/Shutterstock.com
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