Historic Happenings: A Prehistoric Glimpse at the Garden State

Historic Happenings: A Prehistoric Glimpse at the Garden State

Long before New Jersey was a bustling metropolis, it was nature which dominated the land. When we think about prehistoric times, it’s hard to imagine that the streets we travel today were the same regions occupied by prehistoric creatures great and small. When we take a look back at some of these early creatures, we have the opportunity to learn more about how these predecessors paved the way for the natural ecosystem we enjoy today. In honor of New Jersey’s primitive past, today, let’s take a look at some of the prehistoric specimens who called the Garden State their home.

  • Hadrosaurus: the Hadrosaurus, New Jersey’s state dinosaur, was a duck-billed herbivore which lived during the Late Cretaceous Period. To date, there has only ever been one Hadrosaurus fossil found in 1858 by Joseph Leidy near the town of Haddonfield. These massive creatures could grow up to 26ft. tall, boasting an average weight of 2 to 4 tons. These complex critters are a seldom-understood species, often stumping scientists regarding the best classification for this genus. A proud relic of New Jersey’s prehistoric past, the Hadrosaurus no doubt holds a special place in the heart of the Garden State.Hadrosaurus Pictures & Facts - The Dinosaur Database
  • American Mastodon: The American Mastodon is a majestic creature who lived in late Miocene or late Pliocene era, approximately 11,000 years ago. These tusked marvels most closely resemble the elephant, and also share characteristics with the mammoth; despite the visual similarities, however, the Mastodon is not closely related to either species. Mastodons were social creatures, preferring to live in herds. They were approximately 7ft. tall, with weights ranging from 8 to 12 tons. Over the years, several have been discovered throughout the Garden State, giving us glimpses as to where these creatures may have lurked.Missing the Mastodon
  • Prehistoric sharks: Lurking beneath the waves of the Atlantic, prehistoric sharks dominated the waters. While we don’t see too many of these fearsome creatures swimming along our shores today, back in the prehistoric era, they were a regular part of the ecosystem’s inhabitants. Over the years, a number of shark specimens have been found along the New Jersey coast. A feared predator both now and then, sharks in the prehistoric era were even documented to prey upon dinosaurs! While today’s sharks are certainly no walk in the park when it comes to their hunting abilities, we are certainly glad we won’t be running into one of these the next time we take a trip to the Jersey Shore.
    New Prehistoric Shark Species Discovered Alongside Sue the T. Rex | Science| Smithsonian Magazine
  • Dryptosaurus: Another dynamic dinosaur that once inhabited the Garden State was the Dryptosaurus, the first kind of tyrannosaurus to be discovered in the United States. This species went extinct approximately 66 million years ago, making it one of the region’s earliest inhabitants. This creature was estimated to be about 25 feet long, weighing approximately 3,400 pounds each. A slender and fearsome creature with striking features, the Dyrptosarus is a truly unforgettable member of this theropod family.
    Dryptosaurus Pictures & Facts - The Dinosaur Database

All these and more once roamed the places we call home, offering a humbling reminder of the remarkable beings which have inhabited the earth long before us humans arrived. Written in the rocks of the past rests a fascinating ecosystem which illuminates the world which paved the way for the current climate. You don’t have to be a paleontologist to appreciate the majesty of these creatures of days gone by, so let’s raise a toast to New Jersey’s earliest residents!

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