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The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Florida


To date, no dinosaurs have been discovered in Florida, but this state boasts a rich assortment of prehistoric mammals (and other animals), as listed below. (See an interactive map of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals in the United States.)

1. Prehistoric Cats

Saber-Toothed Cat
edenpictures/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
Prehistoric Florida was populated by a healthy assortment of horses and elephants (see below), so it only makes sense that predatory saber-toothed cats also prospered in this state. The most famous Florida felines were Barbourofelis and Megantereon; these genera were later supplanted by the bigger, stockier and more dangerous Smilodon. More about saber-toothed cats

2. Eupatagus

London Natural History Museum

Until about 25 million years ago, Florida was completely submerged under water--which helps to explain why paleontologists have nominated Eupatagus (a type of sea urchin dating to the Eocene epoch) as the official state fossil. True, it wasn't as fearsome as a meat-eating dinosaur, but fossils of Eupatagus have been found all over the Sunshine State!

3. Otodus

Nobu Tamura

Because soft cartilage doesn't preserve well, and because sharks grow and shed thousands of teeth over the course of their lifetimes, prehistoric sharks are known mostly by their fossilized choppers. The teeth of Otodus have been found in abundance all over the state of Florida (as have those of an even better-known shark, Megalodon).

4. Megatherium

Paris Natural History Museum
Better known as the Giant Sloth, Megatherium was the largest land mammal ever to roam Florida--bigger even than fellow Sunshine State residents like the Woolly Mammoth and the American Mastodon. The Giant Sloth originated in South America, but managed to colonize much of southernmost North America before it went extinct about 10,000 years ago. More about Megatherium

5. Prehistoric Elephants

American Museum of Natural History
Woolly Mammoths and American Mastodons weren't restricted to the northern parts of North America before the last Ice Age; they populated most of the continent. In addition to these well-known pachyderms, Florida was home to the distant elephant ancestor Gomphotherium, which appears in fossil deposits starting about 15 million years ago. More about prehistoric elephants

6. Prehistoric Horses

Heinrich Harder
Before they went extinct in North America--and had to be reintroduced to the continent via Eurasia--horses were some of the most common prehistoric mammals in Florida. The most notable horses of the Sunshine State were the tiny (only about 75 pounds) Mesohippus and the much bigger Hipparion, which weighed about a quarter of a ton. More about prehistoric horses

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