See how many dinosaur fossils are in Iowa

Written by:
June 14, 2022

See how many dinosaur fossils are in Iowa

Humans' fascination with dinosaurs goes back at least 2,000 years to Chinese writings describing what were thought to be massive dragon bones. In the 17th century, an English museum curator discovered a large thigh bone he posited was from a human giant. The first scientific designation of a group of animals called dinosaurs came about in the 1840s. 1993's blockbuster "Jurassic Park" drove our 20th-century obsession with dinosaurs into overdrive. And with each new fossil discovery and dinosaur movie release, our intrigue with these prehistoric predators only grows.

Every American state has searched its soil for dinosaur fossils, but some states have more old dinosaur bones than others. Anyone lucky enough to stumble on some is likely to strike pay dirt: The world's most complete T. rex skeleton fetched a record-setting $31.8 million in a 2020 auction.

To determine which states have the most dinosaur fossils, Stacker consulted the Paleobiology Database, a non-profit public resource that brings together fossil records from research institutions around the world. Data is current as of May 2022. We pulled all records labeled "Dinosauria" (the dinosaur clade) and sorted them by state. It is important to note that these records do not comprehensively reflect all dinosaur fossil records in the U.S., but rather represent a sample via the fossils available in public collections.

Read on to see how many dinosaur fossils have been found in your state, or check out the national list here.

Iowa by the numbers

- Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 3
- Genus with the most fossils: Hadrosauridae (2 fossils)
- Time period with the most fossils: Albian (2 fossils)

Iowa is home to one of the world's biggest untouched gypsum deposits found at the Fort Dodge Formation, and the state is second in the U.S.for gypsum production. Even though a handful of fossils discovered in the state suggest dinosaurs roamed here, there is no confirmation that Iowa served as home base like adjacent states. The Fossil and Prairie Center in Rockford invites visitors to search for fossils along miles of trails.

Five states—Kentucky, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin—have no dinosaur fossils recorded by the PBDB. These states were mostly below sea level during the time dinosaurs roamed the Earth, leaving little sediment to preserve fossils. Glacial erosion also contributed to the lack of bones.

Along with the most prominent time period, the genus with the most fossils is provided for each slide. A dinosaur's genus encompasses multiple species with similar characteristics. Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, and Diplodocus are three of the nearly 300 valid dinosaur genera.

Continue reading to discover which states have the most dinosaur fossils.

States with the most dinosaur fossils

#1. California: 1,988 total fossils recorded in PBDB
#2. Wyoming: 1,118 total fossils recorded in PBDB
#3. Montana: 940 total fossils recorded in PBDB
#4. New Mexico: 935 total fossils recorded in PBDB
#5. Florida: 895 total fossils recorded in PBDB

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