Dinosaurs in Virginia?
By Tammy Schwab
In March of 1993 a local Centreville man found the fossil footprint of an Archosaur. This 240 million-year-old track came from a 10-15 foot long ancestor of the modern-day crocodile. Duck-billed dinosaurs are actually the most abundant dinosaur fossil on the East Coast. These are found in the rocks of the Upper Cretaceous (65 to 99 million years ago). The first was discovered in 1858. Hadrosaurus foulkii was the first known duck-billed dinosaur. Fossils are everywhere. Virginia even has a state fossil, the Chesapecten jeffersonius; this bivalve scallop has been the official fossil of Virginia since 1993.
Did you know you live in the Culpepper Basin?
The Culpepper basin is a big swath of Triassic aged rocks (248 to 206 million years old), located between Madison Mills, Virginia, and Frederick, Maryland. In the past, people have found dinosaur and reptile tracks, gastroliths (stones used in digestion), fish fossils, fresh-water invertebrates and plant material.
Why aren't there more fossils?
We don't have vast plains of open ground and scrub land like that of the arid west where dinosaur finds are legendary. The lush green that gives our state such beauty slows or halts the erosion that makes fossil discovery easy. Erosion strips off the top layers of rock and soil and exposes fossils. When we find a fossil around here, it is usually because we've excavated for tunnels, road cuts, quarries, bridge foundations, water wells or a canal. Many of the fossils buried here will remain hidden due to the vast carpet of concrete and asphalt that increasingly paves the Commonwealth, especially in our area.
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