West Virginia is the 39th most populous state, with a population of 1,755,715. This state is well-known for its rugged mountains, hiking trails, rivers, and waterfalls that are perfect for outdoor adventures. According to the Department of Natural Resources, 35 state parks, nine state forests, and three rail trails are in West Virginia.
One of the most famous trails is the Appalachian Trail. It is a mountain system covering thirteen states, including West Virginia. Although situated amidst civilization, Arnold Guyot reported that there are still more than a thousand miles of impenetrable forests in the Appalachian mountain system.
West Virginia’s physiography is a result of striking geological activity. According to studies, this land of grandeur was submerged in an ocean more than 400 million years ago. Many pieces of evidence support this claim. Although covered in mountains and forests, West Virginia has massive salt deposits and fossils of marine animals.
1. Limnopus glenshawensis
|Living Period||Upper Pennsylvanian – 300 Million Years Ago|
An abundant fossil of tetrapod footprints was discovered in Wayne County, West Virginia. Tetrapods are four-legged animals, including amphibians and reptiles. The tracks discovered had 11.8 inches (30 cm) intervals and were found 15 meters above the Brush Creek Limestone. These tracks have been assigned to Limnopus. Thus, a new ichnospecies, Limnopus glenshawensis, was proposed. The said species was believed to be an amphibian with a total length of slightly over 1 m. Studies show that this species could thrive in brackish and fresh water.
2. Giant sloth
|Living Period||Pleistocene Epoch – 5 million to 11,000 years ago|
Prehistoric giant sloths are divided into different families. One of them is Megalonyx. The term came from the Greek word “great claws.” True to its name, Megalonyx jeffersonii is the largest species of the Megalonyx family, and these giant ground sloths are well-known for their giant claws. Recent publications mentioned that Statesman Thomas Jefferson was sent fossils discovered in Haynes Cave, Monroe County, West Virginia, in 1797. Jefferson identified the fossil as bones from a giant ground sloth. There is also some recorded fossil of Megalonyx Jeffersonii found in North Dakota in 1999.
3. Flat-headed Peccary
|Living Period||Pleistocene (Ice Age) – 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago|
The flat-headed peccary, scientifically named Platygonus compressus, is an extinct pig-like mammal that came from the Tayassuidae family. It is called flat-headed because of the straight shape of its forehead. The first description of Platygonys compressus was published in 1848.
According to studies, the estimated body mass is 62 pounds (28 kg) based on the available data on the gathered femur, humerus, tibia, and ulna fossils. They are herbivores that are both browsers and grazers. Grazers are grass eaters, while browsers are herbivores that eat non-grass like twigs, acorns, tree bark, and fruits.
The flat-headed peccary has lived in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Texas, and West Virginia. According to records, the fossil West Virginia first discovered the fossil of Platygonus compressus in a cave in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.
4. Saber-toothed tiger
|Living Period||Upper Miocene to the late Pliocene – 23 million to 2.6 million years ago|
The saber-toothed tiger, scientifically called Smilodon, is a carnivore that once roamed West Virginia from the upper Miocene to the late Pliocene (23 million–2.6 million years ago). They were considered apex predators with large, muscular bodies weighing up to 661 lbs (300 kg) and long canine teeth. Even the largest mammal that weighed up to 12 tons can not survive when attacked by a Smilodon because they will hunt in packs. Their main prey were deer, bison, and woolly mammoths. The one true enemy of Smilodon is humans.
The canine teeth of a Smilodon can be an average of 7 inches (18 cm) long. As a result, they were known as saber-tooth tigers. However, they are not tigers. They are not even closely related to tigers. In West Virginia, fossils of Smilodon were found in Greenbrier and Pendleton Counties.
5. American cheetah
|Living Period||Pliocene to Pleistocene epoch|
The American cheetah, scientifically named Miracinonyx inexpectatus, is an extinct species that roamed West Virginia. Their morphological structure and features resemble those of the modern cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). American cheetahs have legs that are bigger than modern cheetahs, which suggests that they are built for fast running.
In 2004, a study about the cheetah room fauna in Hamilton Cave in West Virginia included Miracinonyx inexpectatus, among other species.
6. Dire wolf
|Sub-species||Aenocyon dirus guildayi Aenocyon dirus dirus|
|Living Period||Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene epochs – 125,000 to 9,500 years ago|
The dire wolf, scientifically named Aenocyon dirus, is an extinct canine that used to be a competitor to Smilodon. Aenocyon came from the Greek word “dreadful” or “fearsome.” According to studies, Canis dirus (dire wolf) was named by Joseph Leidy in 1858, but due to morphological differentiation, it was recombined into a different genus; it was renamed Aenocyon dirus by Merriam in 1918. New genetic data suggests that gray wolves were not closely related to dire wolves. Modern wolves belong to the Canis genus. On average, Aenocyon dirus guildayi weighs about 132 pounds, and Aenocyon dirus dirus weighs about an average of 150 pounds. In West Virginia, several fossils of dire wolves were found in a cave in Greenbrier County in 1960.
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