Dinosaurs That Lived In Hawaii (And Where To See Fossils Today)

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: August 11, 2023
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Hawaii is a tropical paradise that features mountainous regions, volcanoes, and beautiful rainforests. The island is a frequent destination for vacationers and even moviemakers that desire the natural beauty of this state. Although the state is home to a wide variety of wildlife these days, scientists have identified no dinosaurs that lived in Hawaii.

We’ll explain this lack of dinosaur fossil remains while also exploring some prehistoric animals that called this island home throughout its history.

What Is Hawaii’s State Fossil?

Honolulu city, Oahu, Hawaii

Hawaii does not have a state fossil.

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Hawaii is one of the few states that does not have a state fossil. That does not mean Hawaii does not have any fossils, though. Some states think that they have enough symbols for their area and don’t require more. Michigan lawmakers took that position before eventually accepting the American Mastodon as the state’s fossil.

At least five other states do not yet have a state fossil. They include Texas, New Hampshire, Iowa, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. Their lack of a named state fossil is not due to a lack of fossils or dinosaurs. After all, Texas was once home to over a dozen different species of dinosaurs and has many fossils. Still, the lawmakers have not named any of them the state fossils.

Why Are There No Fossils Of Dinosaurs That Lived In Hawaii?

Hawaii has no dinosaur fossils because the volcanic upwelling that formed the chain of islands started between 70 and 40 million years ago. Dinosaurs only lived until about 66 million years ago. That means there were no Hawaiian Islands around during the time that dinosaurs roamed the planet. Without dinosaurs, no fossils would exist.

These islands were formed by a process called hot spot volcanism. The Hawaiian Islands formed as a result of a hot spot, and a series of islands developed over time. The islands are oldest near the northwest and continue to get younger toward the southeast. Currently, the youngest island is believed to be the Big Island of Hawaii.

This process is ongoing, and the Loihi Volcano is the latest in the series of volcanoes that eventually broke the surface. Scientists estimate that the new island will rise above the water surface sometime between the next 10,000 and 100,000 years.

Some people have considered Hawaii a poor place to go hunting for fossils. However, that sentiment began to change in the early 2000s, and now people look for someone of the creatures that lived on the islands in the past.

Even though Hawaii as its known today is not very old by geological standards, it has still been around for millions of years. That’s plenty of time for a fossil record to develop. Let’s take some time to learn about the various animals that have called this state home in the past.  

What Are Some Prehistoric Creatures That Lived in Hawaii?

The fossil record in Hawaii is not as exciting as other states. We know that there are no dinosaurs that lived in Hawaii. That does not mean scientists have never recovered fossils from animals that lived on or near the islands. Take a look at some prehistoric creatures that once lived in this area.  

Moa-nalo

Moa-nalo was driven to extinction by humans settling on the islands.

©Apokryltaros at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

The moa-nalo was a type of bird driven to extinction by human settlement on the islands. The group consisted of several different species of birds including Chelychelynechen quassus, Thambetochen xanion, Thambetochen chauliodous, and Ptaiochen pau.

Scientists have found the subfossil remains of these birds in several sand dunes on the larger islands. A subfossil is anything that is not ancient enough to be called a true fossil but not young enough to be considered animal remains.

Aside from the Moa-nalo, very few species of animals have fossils in Hawaii. At least, few animals have true fossils. Many of the fossilized mollusks, corals, and algae found throughout this state belong to species that are still around today.  

Where Can You See Fossils In Hawaii?

bishop museum

You can find fossils at Bishop Museum.

©iStock.com/7maru

While you won’t find any fossils of dinosaurs that lived in Hawaii, you can still see some interesting fossils at The Vertebrate Zoology Collections at Bishop Museum. The museum has many collections of ancient bird fossils, especially the aforementioned species.

The museum also has a series of other offerings. You can visit the museum’s planetarium and learn about astronomy. While you’re in Hawaii, you can take some time to look up at the night sky on your own. Since Hawaii lacks the light pollution of many other places in the world, you can get a view of the sky there like no other.

You can also take some time to explore the museum and learn more about the interesting culture of the Hawaiians.

Summary Of The Dinosaurs That Lived In Hawaii

RankDinosaurWhere to Find Fossils
1Moa-naloThe Vertebrate Zoology Collections at Bishop Museum

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Catmando/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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