The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of New Hampshire

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Which Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals Lived in New Hampshire?

A typical coral, of the type that once lived in New Hampshire. Wikimedia Commons

Pity the dinosaur enthusiast who lives in New Hampshire. Not only does this state contain absolutely no dinosaur fossils--for the simple reason that its rocks were actively eroding away during the Mesozoic Era--but it has yielded virtually no evidence of any prehistoric vertebrate life at all. (The "metamorphic" geology of New Hampshire was in a constant state of ferment all through the Cenozoic Era, and this state spent the cusp of the modern era covered in thick glaciers.) Still, that's not to say that New Hampshire was entirely devoid of prehistoric life, as you can learn about by perusing the following slides. (See a list of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals discovered in each U.S. state.)

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Fossilized brachiopods. Wikimedia Commons

The only extant fossils in New Hampshire date from the Devonian, Ordovician and Silurian periods, about 400 to 300 million years ago. Brachiopods--small, shelled, ocean-dwelling creatures closely related to modern bivalves--were especially common in this state during the later Paleozoic Era; although they continue to flourish today, they were decimated in numbers by the Permian-Triassic Extinction, which negatively affected 95 percent of ocean-dwelling animals.

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petosky stone
A fossilized coral colony. Wikimedia Commons

Many people are unaware that corals are small, marine, colony-dwelling animals, and not plants. Hundreds of millions of years ago, prehistoric corals were common across the breadth of North America; some particularly striking fossil specimens have been discovered in New Hampshire. Today, corals are most notable for the reefs they form in temperate climates (such as Australia's Great Barrier Reef), which are home to a huge diversity of marine organisms.

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Crinoids and Bryozoans

A crinoid fossil. Wikimedia Commons

Crinoids are small marine invertebrates that anchor themselves to the sea bottom and feed through tentacle-surrounded mouths; bryozoans are tiny, filter-feeding animals that live in underwater colonies. During the later Paleozoic Era, when what was destined to become New Hampshire lay completely underwater, these creatures were ripe for fossilization--and in the absence of any vertebrate fossils from the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras, that's the best the residents of the Granite State can do!