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Are there any dinosaur fossils around Binghamton?

Asked by: Alex Jacobs
School: Port Dickinson Elementary School
Grade: 2

Hobbies/Interests:  Football, wresling, star wars and animals
Career Interest: Football player or zookeeper

Answer from Karl Wilson

Professor of Biology

Research area: Biochemistry, degradation of proteins in plants; seed germination
Ph.D. school: University at Buffalo
Family: Wife (also a faculty member at Binghamton), daughter
Interests/hobbies: Paleontology, photography, cooking
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While we find many fossils in the rock around Binghamton, we don't find dinosaur fossils. The sedimentary rock exposed in most of New York State, including the Binghamton area, was deposited in the Paleozoic Era (540 to 250 million years ago) long before the dinosaurs, in a marine environment.  This is not to say that dinosaurs never roamed New York - they did. At the close of the Paleozoic, all of the landmasses of the Earth had come together to form the super-continent Pangea.  What is now New York was in the interior of Pangea, near the equator.  Dinosaurs were certainly living in many areas of Pangea, including the New York to-be.  
However, any sediments and their contained fossils from that era were long ago removed from our area by erosion, exposing the older Paleozoic rock we see now at the surface. 

The one exception to this is found in the extreme southeast of New York.
Beginning with the Late Triassic (approximately 220 million years ago) Pangea began breaking up into the continents we know today, with the new east coast of North America separating from the northwest coast of Africa.  This began as fracturing of the crust, producing what are known as rift valleys. Lakes and rivers forming in these rift valleys were edged by mudflats.  It is in the rocks formed from the hardening of these mudflats that we find preserved dinosaur footprints.  These rocks are exposed in the Newark Basin sediments (northern New Jersey), and the Connecticut River Basin (Connecticut).  One set of dinosaur footprints was found at Nyack, Rockland County, NY, in the 200 million year old rock of the Newark Basin.  These footprints are thought to have been made by the dinosaur Coelophysis, a lightly built, carnivorous, bipedal dinosaur.

Coelophysis is a symbolic mascot for the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, where you can see reconstructions of this dinosaur (and many other fossils!).  The American Museum of Natural History (NYC) and the Peabody Museum at Yale University (New Haven, CT) also have excellent displays of dinosaur fossils.  Dinosaur State Park (Rocky Hill, CT) preserves a large area of a mudflat covered by dinosaur footprints, and is well worth a visit.


Last Updated: 3/1/17