The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Vermont

delphinapterus
Wikimedia Commons

Like the other states of upper New England, Vermont has an extremely sparse fossil history. This state has no geologic deposits dating from the late Paleozoic to the late Mesozoic eras (meaning no dinosaurs have ever been, or will ever be, discovered here), and even the Cenozoic is a virtual blank until the very end of the Pleistocene epoch. Still, that's not to say that the Green Mountain State was entirely devoid of prehistoric life.

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Delphinapterus

Underwater view of Beluga Whale (Delphinapterus leucas)

Paul Souders / Getty Images

The official state fossil of Vermont, Delphinapterus is the genus name of the still-extant Beluga Whale, also known as the White Whale. The specimen discovered in Vermont dates to about 11,000 years ago, towards the end of the last Ice Age, when much of the state was covered by a shallow body of water called the Champlain Sea. (Due to Vermont's lack of appropriate sediments, unfortunately, this state has no whale fossils dating from earlier in the Cenozoic Era.)

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The American Mastodon

Mastodon in the Museum of Natural History & Science

 Richard Cummins / Getty Images

It was only toward the very end of the Pleistocene epoch when its thick coating of glaciers began to recede, that Vermont became populated by any kind of megafauna mammals. Though they have yet to find any intact specimens (of the kind periodically discovered in Siberia and the northern reaches of Alaska), paleontologists have unearthed scattered American Mastodon fossils in Vermont; it's also likely, though unsupported by the fossil record, that this state was briefly home to Woolly Mammoths.

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Maclurites

Fossil Gastropod Mollusk (Maclurites), Plattsburg, New York

Scientifica / Getty Images

A common fossil in Vermont, Maclurites was a genus of prehistoric snail, or gastropod, that lived during the Ordovian period (about 450 million years ago, when the region destined to become Vermont was covered by a shallow ocean and vertebrate life had yet to colonize dry land). This ancient invertebrate was named after William Maclure, famous for producing the very first geologic map of the United States way back in 1809.  

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Various Marine Invertebrates

Group of Brachiopods (internal molds) from the Productina suborder

De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images

The northeastern U.S., including Vermont, is rich in sediments dating to the Paleozoic Era, about 500 to 250 million years ago, well before the age of dinosaurs. Vermont's fossil deposits mostly consist of ancient, tiny, sea-dwelling creatures like corals, crinoids, and brachiopods, back when much of North America was submerged underwater. One of the most famous invertebrates of Vermont is Olenellus, which at the time of its discovery was considered the earliest known trilobite.