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The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Michigan


Because of its unique geologic history, the fossils of Michigan are either very, very old or relatively new (and they don't include any dinosaurs). Here's a list of this state's most notable prehistoric animals. (See an interactive map of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals in the United States.)

1. Algae

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Amazingly, Michigan's fossil deposits stretch all the way back to the Cambrian period, about 500 million years ago. In this state's oldest sediments, you can find the tiny, fossilized remains of ancient algae, complex, single-celled, ocean-dwelling organisms that attain macroscopic size by joining together in colonies.

2. Small Marine Animals

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For over 200 million years after the Cambrian period, the state of Michigan was covered by a shallow sea. That's why sediments from the Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian periods are rich in small marine organisms, including various species of corals, brachiopods, trilobites and crinoids (tiny, tentacled creatures distantly related to starfish).

3. Prehistoric Whales

sperm whale
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For the past few hundred million years, most of Michigan has been above sea level--but not all of it, as evidenced by the discovery of various prehistoric whales, including specimens of still-extant cetaceans like Physeter (better known as the Sperm Whale) and Balaenoptera (the Fin Whale). These fossil whales are extremely recent, some dating to less than 1,000 years ago!
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