Discover 5 Extinct Animals That Lived in Indiana

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: May 12, 2023
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Indiana is also known as the “Hoosier State.” It borders Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky. The territory is covered in forests, riverbanks, lakeshores, rocky hills, and grassland prairies. Numerous animal species inhabit the area, including black bears, badgers, bison, white-tail deer, black bears, and even 13 native bat species. Other native Indiana species are the Allegheny woodrat and the eastern mole.

Indiana’s territory hosted many prehistoric animals, too, that can now be traced thanks to the fossil discoveries in the region. Indiana’s paleontological research started with the Precambrian when it was home to microbes. More complex creatures began to appear during the early Paleozoic era when a shallow sea covered the state. These included trilobites, crinoids, cephalopods, and brachiopods. 

Later, during the Carboniferous period, the state was home to multiple amphibians. Then, during the Ice Age, the Hoosier State was abundant with prehistoric animals: short-faced bears, mammoths, mastodons, and camels.

Unfortunately, no fossils were found in Indiana from the entire Mesozoic era. There’s no evidence of dinosaurs living in the area either.

Still, the archeologists in Indiana discovered many remains that eventually contributed to shaping the world’s history. Let’s find out more about 5 animals that lived in Indiana!

1. Fine-rayed pearly mussel

Epioblasma personata (fine-rayed pearly mussel)

Fine-rayed pearly mussels are endemic to the Tennessee River and Ohio River.

©James St. John / flickr – License

Fine-rayed pearly mussel
SpeciesEpioblasma personata
Extinct since20th century

The scientific name for fine-rayed pearly mussels is Epioblasma personata. They are also called round combshells. These freshwater mussels are part of the Bivalvia class of marine and freshwater mollusks. 

Fine-rayed pearly mussels are endemic to the Tennessee River and Ohio River, so their remains were also found in Indiana. Round combshells also lived in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Alabama. The last living mussels were seen in 1924. They were declared extinct in the early 20th century.

2. North American short-faced bear

3D rendering of a Short-Faced Bear on a white background

The giant short-faced bear is considered one of the largest carnivorous species in North America.


North American short-faced bear
Living periodLate Pliocene-Holocene

The North American short-faced bear appeared during the latest Pliocene and lived until the Holocene epoch, going extinct approximately 12,000 years ago. They are called “short-faced” because their snout is disproportionately short. The spectacled bear is the only living bear with the same unique characteristic. There were two types of short-faced bears:

  • Lesser short-faced bear (its scientific name– Arctodus pristinus)
  • Giant short-faced bear (its scientific name Arctodus simus). 

The giant short-faced bear is considered one of the largest carnivorous species in North America. Some bears weighed around 1984 pounds, while the largest found weighed over 2,000 pounds.

The remains of a giant short-faced bear were discovered in 1967 in a shallow lake in Fulton County, Indiana. After being reconstructed, this skeleton was declared one of the few specimens in the country that contained so many skeleton components.

3. Dire wolf

Dire wolf close-up

Dire wolves were found in eastern Asia, as well as North and South America.

©Daniel Eskridge/

Dire Wolf
SpeciesAenocyon dirus
Living period125,000-9,500 years ago

You might’ve heard of dire wolves from the “Game of Thrones” TV series, as they appeared at the very beginning of the show when Robb Stark found six orphaned dire wolf pups and rescued them. 

Dire wolves were found in eastern Asia, as well as North and South America. They appeared around 125,000 years ago and went extinct 9,500 years ago. They resemble extant wolves, except that dire wolves are much bigger. For example, a red wolf weighs 65 pounds, while a dire wolf weighs 130-150 pounds. Dire wolves inhabited grasslands, forested mountain areas, plains, arid savannahs, and steppes. 

The first dire wolf fossils in Indiana were discovered in 1854 on the Ohio River. In 1858, a paleontologist named Joseph Leidy classified these remains as belonging to a dire wolf.

4. Mastodon

Illustration of a Mastodon on a white background

Mastodons inhabited Earth from the early Pliocene until the late Pleistocene, becoming extinct approximately 11,000 years ago.

©Liliya Butenko/

Living periodEarly Pliocene-Late Pleistocene

Mastodons inhabited Earth from the early Pliocene until the late Pleistocene, becoming extinct approximately 11,000 years ago. They disappeared because of a mass extinction that destroyed much of the megafauna alive in the Pleistocene. 

Nowadays, Indiana hosts an almost complete mastodon skeleton. It is now in the possession of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. The “skeleton” was named Fred the Buesching Mastodon in honor of Mr. Buesching, on whose land the fossils were found. Scientists believe the mastodon died approximately 13,000 years ago. Scientists believe Fred the Mastodon died at 33 years old. The whole skeleton is 25 feet long and 9 feet tall. Its remains are still of great value in understanding how the mastodon population lived, moved, and why they didn’t survive. 

Another partial skeleton was found in 1978 in a drainage ditch in Fulton County, Indiana. The remains helped reestablish a 41-48% complete skeleton of a 30-34-year-old female mastodon. This specimen is now called Overmyer Mastodon, in the name of Robert Overmyer, on whose farm the fossils were found. The skeleton is currently located at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

5. Saber-tooth cat

Saber-toothed tiger

The scientific name for saber-toothed cats is


©Daniel Eskridge/

Saber-tooth cat
Living periodPleistocene epoch

The scientific name for saber-toothed cats is Smilodon. They are part of the family of Felidae. This family includes cats, panthers, leopards, and lions. Saber-tooth cats or saber-tooth tigers lived during the Pleistocene epoch, inhabiting the North and South American continents. They weighed 350–620 pounds and were approximately the same size as Siberian tigers. The evidence shows that saber-tooth cats fed on bison, camels, peccary, and the llama-like Hemiauchenia. 

Saber-tooth cat remains were found in Monroe County, Indiana, along with other remains belonging to dire wolves and extinct peccaries. Most of the saber-tooth cat fossils were found in California and Florida; the collection includes remains of Smilodons as old as 500,000 years and as young as 9,400 years. 

Summary of the 5 Extinct Animals That Lived in Indiana

Here is a summary of the five extinct animals that once lived in Indiana:

1.Fine-rayed pearly musselOhio River20th century
2.North American short-faced bearFulton County, Indiana12,000 years ago
3.Dire WolfOhio River9,500 years ago
4.MastodonFulton County, Indiana13,000 years ago
5.Saber-tooth catMonroe County, Indiana9,400 years ago

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

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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