Dinosaurs That Lived In Kentucky (And Where to See Fossils Today)

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: August 15, 2023
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Kentucky is a southern state known for its mix of farmlands and mountainous areas, along with its distinct culture. Many different animals live in Kentucky these days. What about the past, though? Would you have seen dinosaurs millions of years ago? Today, we’re going to explore the dinosaurs that lived in Kentucky and what fossil evidence we have of their existence.  

In this case, we’re going to explain why you won’t find any dinosaur fossils from Kentucky in any museums.

What Is Kentucky’s State Dinosaur?

brachiopod

Brachiopods are the fossilized shells of ancient marine animals.

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The brachiopod is the official state fossil of Kentucky. This fossil was designated the state fossil in 1986. What in the world is a brachiopod, though?

Brachiopods are the fossilized shells of ancient marine animals. Brachiopods may look similar to the shells of modern marine clams or other creatures, but they’re not the same as them. However, they are small animals. Most of the creatures contained in the fossils measured about 1 to 4 inches long.  

Brachiopod fossils developed roughly 445 million years ago. That was long before dinosaurs walked the Earth. The fossils from that time were over a hundred million years old and tucked deep into the layers of sediment. That’s why brachiopod fossils survived, and dinosaur fossils did not.  

Why Do We Lack Evidence Of Dinosaurs That Lived In Kentucky?

Humans have never found dinosaur fossils in Kentucky. The reason is that sediment deposits from the Triassic and Jurassic periods are not present in this state. Dinosaurs only lived during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. As a result, that entire period of fossil history is missing.

What happened in Kentucky during that time that caused no fossils to form? Well, Kentucky was underwater for all that time until the Cretaceous. As a result, most dinosaurs probably didn’t live in this area. The bodies of dinosaurs that lived in this area would not have formed fossils even if they died in the shallowest waters. The sediments didn’t deposit and build up layer after layer, year after year.

Instead, the sediments repeatedly washed away, taking with it any evidence that dinosaurs had lived in Kentucky. Eventually, parts of Kentucky underwent a series of geological events that allowed parts of the area to become land during the Cretaceous. Even though Kentucky was a landmass during some of the Cretaceous, any Cretaceous-era sediment deposits were eroded away in the ensuing years.

At least, that’s the case everywhere but in the westernmost portion of Kentucky. Western Kentucky does have some late Cretaceous deposits. The sea level rose in the Jackson Purchase Region, depositing some sediments from the water in that area.

As a result, paleontologists found some animal and plant fossils from the late Cretaceous, Still, humans have never recovered dinosaur fossils.

Unfortunately, you can’t see any fossils of dinosaurs that lived in Kentucky because no fossils have ever been recovered.

What Are Some Dinosaurs That Lived In States Near Kentucky?

Although we lack any direct evidence that dinosaurs lived in Kentucky, some dinosaurs have been found in nearby and neighboring states. Let’s take a look at a few states near Kentucky and the dinosaurs that once called them home.

Arkansas Dinosaurs

The state of Arkansas was not exactly rife with dinosaur fossils, but it had six types of dinosaurs. Some of the dinosaurs that roamed this area were members of Acrocanthosaurus, Deinonychus, Richardoestesia, and Nodosauria. Some titanosaurs were also present, and so was the state dinosaur Arkansaurus fridayi

Texas Dinosaurs

Texas was home to a wide variety of different dinosaurs. At least 12 different types of dinosaurs lived throughout the state. Some of the dinosaurs that were found in Texas were Paluxysaurus, Technosaurus, Acrocanthosaurus, Iguanodon, and T-Rex.

This state has a great deal of fossil evidence substantiating the vast number of dinosaurs that once called the area home.

Many states near Kentucky have evidence of dinosaurs, including all of its closest neighbors. The other states that lack dinosaur fossils include New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island.

Where Can You See Dinosaur Fossils In Kentucky?

Unfortunately, you can’t see any fossils of dinosaurs that lived in Kentucky because no fossils have ever been recovered. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn about dinosaurs or have experiences with them in this state. Dinosaur World in Cave City is a fun place to visit if you want to learn about various dinosaurs.

The large setting allows you to walk amongst hundreds of life-sized dinosaurs while out in the wild. They have many exhibits to learn more about the dinosaurs and even a playground!

If you would like to see fossils and minerals recovered in Kentucky, then you can go to W.G. Burroughs Geology Museum located at Berea College. This location has various minerals, gemstones, replicas of dinosaur heads, and fossils from Kentucky.

What Prehistoric Animals Lived In Kentucky?             

Although there are no dinosaurs that lived in Kentucky, the state was not devoid of prehistoric life. Several different large mammals lived in Kentucky, including some famous megafauna.

1. American Mastodon

Illustration of a Mastodon on a white background

Mastodons were approximately the size of modern

elephants

.

©Liliya Butenko/Shutterstock.com

Scientists have recovered many fossils of the American mastodon throughout Kentucky. For the most part, researchers find the fossils near the Ohio River and its tributaries. The fossils of these creatures age between 25,000 and 11,000 years old, and the creature went extinct around 9,000 and 8,000 years ago.

2. Giant Ground Sloth

Fossils of the giant ground sloth have been found in Kentucky.

©Aunt Spray/Shutterstock.com

Paleontologists have found many fossils of the giant ground sloth in Kentucky throughout the years. They were particularly numerous at Big Bone Lick, a historic site that has a high density of vertebrate fossils. In fact, this area is called the Birthplace of American Vertebrate Paleontology.

3. Giant Short-Faced Bear

Arctodus simus

could weigh up to 1 ton.

©Sergiodlarosa, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

The giant short-faced bear was a monstrous mammal from the Pleistocene. This animal could weigh up to a ton. It grew about 6 feet tall at the shoulder and up to 14 feet long!  

Although we have no records of dinosaurs that lived in Kentucky, the state did have some interesting creatures, minerals, and fossils. The state had several species of megafauna, but all of their fossils are from less than 66 million years ago.

Summary Of Prehistoric Animals Lived In Kentucky

RankPrehistoric Animal
1Brachiopod
2American Mastodon
3Giant Ground Sloth
4Giant Short-Faced Bear

The photo featured at the top of this post is © kamomeen/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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