Sunday, November 8, 2009

Is NJ State Dinosaur from PA?

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about my visit to the site where the first dinosaur skeleton in America was discovered, in Haddonfield, NJ. This was also the first nearly complete dinosaur skeleton in the world. This find has joined the list of many New Jersey Firsts (in fact there are so many that the first dinosaur didn't make the cut on this list). In 1991 this dinosaur, Hadrosaurus Foulkii, was named the State Dinosaur of New Jersey.

Unfortunately, it is not clear whether this dinosaur ever actually lived in New Jersey. H. foulkii lived in the Late Cretaceous period, around 73 million years ago. At that time, New Jersey was under water! Below is a map from the US Geological Survey.

It appears that what happened was H. foulkii and his contemporaries were scampering around in Pennsylvania, which in the Late Cretaceous is where the shoreline was. The one that was found in Haddonfield apparently died at the shore (in PA) and got swept into the ocean (ending up in present day NJ).

Supporting this theory is the fact that dinosaur bones are rare in PA, although dinosaur tracks have been found. Many dinosaur bones have been found in NJ. In fact, the second nearly complete dinosaur skeleton in the world was also found in New Jersey, in nearby Barnsboro, Mantua Township. This one was called Dryptosaurus Aquilunguis.

For more about H. foulkii check out this website. For more about D. aquilunguis look here and here. By the way, D. aquilunguis was a carnivore and probably ate H. foulkii, which lived in the same time period.

Here is a well-known and dramatic painting of D. aquilunguis by Charles R. Knight. It is called "Leaping Laelaps". It was painted in 1897, at which time D. aquilunguis was known as Laelaps Aquilunguis. Knight was an influential artist, one of the first to depict dinosaurs as energetic rather than lumbering.


  1. I love the picture! I've never seen dinosaurs looking so happpy before - makes a change from their usual portrayal.

  2. Isn't it great? I sort of thought the one dinosaur was pouncing on the other to eat him, but I like the playing interpretation better!

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