The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Indiana

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Which Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals Lived in Indiana?

The American Mastodon, a prehistoric mammal of Indiana. Wikimedia Commons

Ironically enough, given that it's home to one of the world's great dinosaur museums--the Children's Museum of Indianapolis--no dinosaurs have ever been discovered in the Hoosier State, for the simple reason that it bears no traces of geologic formations dating to the Mesozoic Era. In fact, Indiana is best known for two things: its small invertebrate fossils that originated all the way back in the Paleozoic Era, and the megafauna mammals that roamed this state on the cusp of the modern era, which you can learn about by perusing the following slides.

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Mammoths and Mastodons

The American Mastodon, a prehistoric mammal of Indiana. Wikimedia Commons

There haven't as yet been any jaw-dropping discoveries--say, an adult Mammuthus primigenius encased in permafrost--but Indiana has yielded the scattered remains of American Mastodons and Woolly Mammoths, which tramped through this state during the late Pleistocene epoch, about 12,000 years ago. These giant proboscids were described as "water monsters" by the first indigenous peoples of Indiana, though probably based on encounters with fossils rather than direct observation.

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The Giant Short-Faced Bear

giant short-faced bear
The Giant Short-Faced Bear, a prehistoric mammal of Indiana. Wikimedia Commons

To date, exactly one specimen of the Giant Short-Faced Bear, Arctodus simus, has been discovered in Indiana, but what a specimen it is, one of the largest and most complete fossils of this prehistoric bear ever to be unearthed in North America. But that's where the Hoosier State's fame begins and ends; the fact is that Arctodus simus was much more populous elsewhere in the U.S., especially California, where this half-ton ursine shared its territory with the Dire Wolf and the Saber-Toothed Tiger.

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Various Brachiopods

Neospirifer, a typical brachiopod. Wikimedia Commons

Small, hard-shelled, marine-dwelling animals closely related to bivalves, brachiopods were even more numerous during the late Paleozoic Era (from about 400 to 300 million years ago) than they are today. The shells of Indiana's brachiopods, and other calcified marine animals, constitute this state's famous Indiana Limestone, which is considered the highest-grade limestone quarried in the United States.  

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Various Crinoids

Pentacrinites, a typical crinoid. Wikimedia Commons

They're not quite as impressive as the 50-ton sauropods discovered in neighboring states, but Indiana is known far and wide for its fossilized crinoids--small, sea-dwelling invertebrates of the Paleozoic Era that were vaguely reminiscent of starfish. Some species of crinoid still persist today, but these animals were especially common in the world's oceans 400 million years ago, where (along with the brachiopods described in the previous slide) they constituted the base of the marine food chain.

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Your Citation
Strauss, Bob. "The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Indiana." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Strauss, Bob. (2020, August 25). The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Indiana. Retrieved from Strauss, Bob. "The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Indiana." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).