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.
Tennessee by the numbers
– Total fossils recorded in PBDB: 34
– Genus with the most fossils: Aves (3 fossils)
– Time period with the most fossils: Late Pleistocene (28 fossils)
Tennessee’s state museum is home to a lot of dinosaur bones, but the relics are not all necessarily from the region. Retired biologist Jim Kelsey and other volunteers at Earth Experience bring in and mold dinosaur bones and relics from Montana and other areas. During the Mesozoic era, marine conditions kept the dinosaurs, who roamed further east, away.
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