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New Jersey, US

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State Fossil:
State fossil from New Jersey

Hadrosaurus foulkii (state dinosaur)
Although it does not have a state fossil, New Jersey does have a state dinosaur. The drawings above are from the original description of this dinosaur, published in 1865. This herbivorous, duck-billed dinosaur lived in the forests and swamps that bordered the eastern shores of North America during the Cretaceous (~ 90-65 million years ago).

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Paleontology and geology

The Precambrian: Most of the Precambrian rocks in New Jersey are igneous or metamorphic and do not contain any fossils. However, stromatolites have been found in some 1.2 billion-year-old marbles, indicating that marine conditions existed locally in the state at that time.

The Paleozoic: Paleozoic rocks are well represented in northern New Jersey. Cambrian-age trilobites and stromatolites record the presence of a warm, shallow sea, while deeper water conditions prevailed during the Ordovician. Uplift and erosion in the Early Silurian provided sediment that contributed to thick sequences of river deposits in the northern part of the state. Marine fossils in rocks inter-layered with the river sediments indicate intermittent incursions of the sea. Warm, shallow seas returned to northwestern New Jersey from the Late Silurian into the Devonian. Brachiopods, bryozoans, corals, and crinoids are among the common fossils found. Any Carboniferous and Permian rocks that might have been present in New Jersey have been eroded away.

The Mesozoic: The Mesozoic rocks of New Jersey record the beginnings of the break-up of the supercontinent of Pangea and the creation of the Newark Rift Basin. Blocks of crust dropped downward along faults and then filled with lakes and sediment eroding off the surrounding highlands. Fossils of early reptiles are found in the Triassic sedimentary rocks. Rifting continued into the Jurassic, and the basin continued to fill with sediments and lava flows. Footprints preserved in the sedimentary rocks indicate that bipedal dinosaurs roamed New Jersey during this time. Most of northern New Jersey was above sea level during the Cretaceous, while in southern New Jersey, seas moved in and out over the coastal plain providing a variety of habitats from terrestrial to continental shelf. Insect and leaf fossils indicate that low-lying areas were covered by vegetation, while tracks and bones show dinosaurs inhabited the landscape. Mosasaurs, sharks, and squid-like animals swam the seas, while clams and oysters thrived on the sea floor below.

The Cenozoic: Marine life continued to flourish in the Tertiary seas of southern New Jersey and fossils of brachiopods, shark teeth, corals, echinoderms, and microscopic organisms indicate that the waters were warmer than those off the coast today. Ice sheets advanced and retreated over northern New Jersey during the Quaternary, and sea level fluctuated as the glaciers alternately grew and melted. Mastodons, mammoths, and other mammals roamed the land in front of the ice sheets.

Links to more on New Jersey paleontology

Organizations | Resources

Organizations

Museums (showing 1 of 1 listings)

New Jersey State Museum: The web site for the museum includes information about ongoing research, exhibitions and programing. The Natural History Bureau of the New Jersey State Museum has active paleontological research in Paleozoic conulariids and other marine invertebrates, the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, and vertebrate fossils of all ages. 

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Resources

Maps (showing 1 of 1 listings)

New Jersey Geological Survey maps: This NJ Geological Survey page offers downloadable pdf files of some bedrock, and several surficial, geologic maps of the state.

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Curriculum and Classroom Resources (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Teacher-Friendly Guides to Geology: Provides teachers with an intuitive and jargon-free review of the geology of different regions of the United States. 

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Field Guides (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Dinosaur Footprints and Trackways From the Northeastern U.S.: This webpage details footprints from the Triassic and Jurassic periods of the northeastern United States. Information includes photographs of footprints, along with information on stratigraphic horizon and correlation, age, and taxonomy.

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History of Paleontology (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Hadrosaurus.com: Scientific and historical information about the first dinosaur skeleton from North America, a duck-billed dinosaur called Hadrosaurus.

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General Reference (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Fossils of New Jersey: A website dedicated to the collection and identification of fossils from Cretaceous deposits of New Jersey, with a focus on shark teeth.

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