The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Rhode Island

The smallest state in the union, Rhode Island has an equally small selection of fossil animals, for the simple reason, that vast stretches of geologic time are missing from its geologic record. Still, even though Rhode Island has little to offer in the way of large vertebrates, that doesn't mean this state was entirely devoid of prehistoric life, as you can learn by perusing the following slides.

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Prehistoric Amphibians

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It may not be much consolation, compared to the dinosaurs discovered in other states, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that small, prehistoric amphibians roamed Rhode Island during the later Paleozoic Era. Preserved amphibian footprints have been discovered in the Rhode Island Formation, which is actually located in eastern Massachusetts rather than Rhode Island itself. Still, it's likely that the creatures that left these track marks also scurried across the swamps of the Ocean State.

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Prehistoric Insects

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Rhode Island's sparse fossil deposits contain an unusual amount of prehistoric insects, mostly consisting of cockroaches (which, with their impressive defenses, can be considered the land-dwelling cousins of the armored trilobites described in the next slide). It didn't quite have the impact of excavating a full-grown Tyrannosaurus Rex, but in 1892, teeny-tiny headlines were generated in Rhode Island when a Providence clergyman discovered a fossilized cockroach wing in Pawtucket!

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Trilobites are some of the most common animals in the fossil record, dating back hundreds of millions of years. If you hunt carefully, you can still find some preserved trilobites in Rhode Island sediments, which are otherwise almost completely lacking in either vertebrates or invertebrates.

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Strauss, Bob. "The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Rhode Island." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Strauss, Bob. (2020, August 27). The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Rhode Island. Retrieved from Strauss, Bob. "The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Rhode Island." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 27, 2023).