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Texas, US



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State Fossil:
State fossil from Texas

Pleurocoelus (state dinosaur)
Texas does not have a state fossil, but it does have a state dinosaur, as well as a fossil for its state stone (petrified palm wood). Pleurocoelus was a large herbivorous sauropod dinosaur that lived during the Early Cretaceous (~ 140-110 million years ago).

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Paleontology and geology

The Precambrian: Precambrian rocks can be seen today in the area commonly referred to as the Llano Uplift of central Texas and in far western Texas. Fossils are rare to non-existent in these metamorphic and igneous rocks.

The Paleozoic: Paleozoic rocks are well represented in Texas. The presence of Cambrian sandstones indicates that sediments were brought into the sea from land areas to the northwest of the state. The limy sediments deposited farther out to sea preserved the remains of trilobites, brachiopods, bivalves, sponges, and other invertebrates. This deposition of limy sediments continued through the Silurian and Devonian; however, fossils are rare in the Silurian rocks and most Texas Devonian rocks are subsurface and can only be seen in drill cores. Rocks of the Early Carboniferous are not exposed at the surface in Texas, while rocks of the Late Carboniferous are well exposed in north-central Texas, and fossils are quite common in these outcrops.

During the Permian, north-central Texas was an area of changing environments, where shallow marine waters gave way to lowland coastal areas. Extensive Permian salt and gypsum deposits indicate that evaporation rates were high, and the red beds in this region contain an abundant vertebrate fossil record. An ancient reef system preserved in the Guadalupe Mountains of far western Texas is evidence that the sea still covered that part of the state. These rocks are rich in marine invertebrate fossils as well as rare vertebrate fossils, primarily sharks.

The Mesozoic: Mesozoic rocks are common in several parts of Texas. Triassic sands and shales were deposited as part of a large river system. These rocks contain a well-documented vertebrate fossil record that includes numerous reptiles and amphibians. Rocks of the Jurassic Period are virtually absent at the surface in Texas, but can be seen in a few small exposures in far western Texas and in subsurface drill cores. The Cretaceous was a time of fluctuating sea levels in the state. The shoreline shifted back and forth many times, leaving behind a record of both marine and non-marine environments. These rocks contain a rich fossil record including dinosaurs, other reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, and mammals.

The Cenozoic: During the Tertiary, extensive volcanic activity poured lavas across the landscape in far western Texas; however, much of the modern High Plains and Texas Coastal Plains are covered by rocks formed from sediment washed down from the rising Rocky Mountains to the northwest. These sedimentary rocks contain a rich vertebrate fossil record, including a large assortment of fossil mammals. There is a wide band of Quaternary deposits along the modern Gulf Coast and in several places in west Texas. Fossils found in these deposits include bones of bison, mammoths, and mastodons.

Links to more on Texas paleontology

Organizations | Education and Exhibits | Research and Collections | Resources


Parks (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Dinosaur Valley State Park: Dinosaur Valley State Park, opened to the public in 1972, is located just northwest of Glen Rose in Somervell County, astride the Paluxy River. This park contains some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks in the world.

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Societies and Clubs (showing 3 of 3 listings)

Dallas Paleontological Society: The Dallas Paleontological Society was founded in 1984 for the purpose of promoting interest in and knowledge of the science of paleontology. It was intended by the founding members that the Society would be a network for the exchange of data between professionals and serious amateurs in this field.

Paleontology Section: The Houston Gem & Mineral Society: Objectives of this group: forming study groups and classes to increase knowledge of paleontology; information exchange about fossils and collecting; writing and publishing information; participation in local and regional events in order to interest and educate the public in paleontology; field trips; meetings; and more.

Paleontological Society of Austin: The PSoA is a scientific, non-profit, community-based organization devoted to the study of fossils. Our goals are: advancing the state of the science, educating the public, and collecting and identifying fossil specimens.

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Museums (showing 3 of 6 listings)

Museum of Nature and Science: The Museum of Nature and Science plays a significant role in documenting, describing and showcasing Texas' vast natural diversity. The current collection of over 280,000 specimens includes the world's largest exhibition of Texas wildlife habitats, and the first mounted Texas dinosaur in Texas. Through its educational and research programs, the Museum attracts a dedicated core of the Dallas community's naturalists, geologists, paleontologists and anthropologists, as well as thousands of Museum members and visitors.

Mayborn Museum Complex, Waco, TX: The Mayborn Museum is the home of one of the oldest natural history collections in Texas. Once part of the Strecker Museum, the collection is now displayed as part of the Mayborn’s Waco at the Crossroads of Texas exhibits. These exhibits explore the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras in Central Texas and feature amazing fossil finds from the area including a plesiosaur and a 75 million year old marine turtle. The Mayborn also offers the only way to experience the internationally known Waco Mammoth Site, the world’s largest concentration of Columbian mammoths dying from a single event. The Waco Mammoth Site exhibit includes original casts of the fossils, video, and exploration stations. With something for everyone, the Mayborn is a must see for anyone interested paleontology, mammoths, or just the unique history of Central Texas.

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History: The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is a leader in informal science education and provides hundreds of programs aimed at engaging children and families in learning. DinoDig® combines life-sized representations of dinosaurs with a large outdoor discovery area where visitors can become amateur paleontologists and dig for dinosaur bones. There is also a permanent exhibit of Texas dinosaurs featuring several mounted specimens.

More Museums

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Education and Exhibits

Physical Exhibits (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Lone Star Dinosaurs: Exhibit overview and excavation photo albums of seven dinosaurs discovered in Texas, six of the dinosaurs are currently featured in the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History's Lone Star Dinosaurs exhibit.

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Research and Collections

Ongoing Research Projects (showing 3 of 3 listings)

Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory, UT: The University of Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory houses one of the 10 largest collections in North America, and it supports one of the Nation's largest graduate education programs in paleontology. It also supports public exhibits at the Texas Memorial Museum.

Late Pleistocene Vertebrates of the El Paso Region: Contains a checklist of the Late Pleistocene fauna (mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds) from the Chihuahuan Desert of southern Texas.

Fossils of North Central Texas: This website by an amateur collector in the Dallas-Fort Worth area includes fossils, maps, and trip pictures, as well as information on formations, geology, and more.

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Researchers (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum: Home page for the LEB at University of Texas at El Paso, with information on collections and research.

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Field Guides (showing 1 of 1 listings)

The Pleistocene Fauna of South Texas: An annotated fossil list, with photographs of specimens, of late Pleistocene fossils from South Texas.

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On-line Journals/Publications (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Texas Geology and Geography: A collection of interesting articles on Texas geology, geography, and paleontology.

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Image Collections (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Texas Fossils: A collection of fossils, found in Hood Co., Jack Co., Fannin Co., and surrounding areas with over 200 specimens.

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