Bone Up On States’ Fossils

With our annual Paleopalooza festival right around the corner—March 3 and 4— we have dinosaurs and fossils on our mind.

Hadrosaurus foulkii, New Jersey’s state dinosaur, on display at the Academy. The original fossils are housed in the museum’s Vertebrate Paleontology Collection. Not in N.J.

If you love dinosaurs or live in the Philadelphia region, you probably know that the Academy was the first place in the world to display a full dinosaur skeleton. It was Hadrosaurus foulkii, which was discovered in Haddonfield, N.J., in 1858. It’s nickname is Haddy.

Haddy is New Jersey’s official state dinosaur, and its fossils are stored in the Academy’s Vertebrate Paleontology Collection. New Jersey is not the only state to have singled out a dinosaur for official recognition.

Numerous states over the years have designated “state dinosaurs” or “state fossils” because of their connection to those animals that once lived there millions of years ago. Turns out the Academy has an important connection to six states’ “state fossils.”

According to Academy Collection Manager Ned Gilmore, the Academy houses the types of these state fossils in our collection. A type is the specimen or group of specimens on which the description and name of a new species is based.

Here’s the roll call of state fossils for which the type specimens are housed at the Academy:

Alabama State Fossil: Basilosaurus cetoides,  a large serpentine sea creature that lived 34 to 35 million years ago.

Delaware State Fossil: Beleminitella americana, an extinct cephalopod closely related to the squid.

Idaho State Fossil: Equus simplicidens, also known as the Hagerman Horse, one of the oldest horses discovered.

Mississippi State Fossil: same as Alabama.

Tennessee State Fossil: Pterotrigonia thoracica, a kind of clam that lived in the ocean that covered West Tennessee 70 million years ago.

West Virginia State Fossil: Megalonyx jeffersonii, a ground sloth that lived 10 million years ago. The fossil was part of Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection that he gave to the Academy.

Want to learn more about fossils from Academy scientists and participate in loads of fun dinosaur  activities for fans of all ages? Then join us at Paleopalooza, Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4. Discount tickets are available online.

Post by Ned Gilmore and Carolyn Belardo


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