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The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of New Mexico


New Mexico is known worldwide for its dinosaurs, which include some of the most complete (and numerous) fossil specimens on the planet. Here's a list of this state's most notable dinosaurs and prehistoric animals. (See an interactive map of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals in the United States.)

1. Coelophysis


The official state fossil of New Mexico, Coelophysis bones have been dug up by the thousands at the Ghost Ranch quarry, leading to speculation that this small, theropod dinosaur roamed in packs. Coelophysis is also one of the few dinosaurs to show evidence of sexual dimorphism, males of the genus being slightly larger than females. More about Coelophysis

2. Coryphodon

Heinrich Harder

One of the first true megafauna mammals, the half-ton Coryphodon was a common sight in swamps around the world during the early Eocene epoch (only 10 million years after the dinosaurs went extinct). Numerous fossils of this small-brained, plant-eating mammal have been discovered in New Mexico, which boasted a lusher climate in prehistoric times.

3. Gastornis


Gastornis wasn't the biggest prehistoric bird that ever lived, but it was one of the most dangerous, with a tyrannosaur-like build that shows how evolution tends to adapt the same body shapes to the same ecological niches. One Gastornis specimen, discovered in New Mexico, was the subject of a paper by the famous paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope. More about Gastornis

4. Giant Bison

giant bison
Royal Saskatchewan Museum

The Giant Bison--genus name Bison latifrons--roamed the plains of late Pleistocene North America until historical times. In New Mexico, archaeologists have discovered Giant Bison remains associated with American Indian settlements, a clue that the first human inhabitants of North America hunted this megafauna mammal to extinction.

5. Nothronychus

Getty Images

The long-necked, long-clawed, pot-bellied Nothronychus was the first therizinosaur to be discovered in North America; until this find on the New Mexico/Arizona border, the most famous dinosaur from this family was the central Asian Therizinosaurus. Nothronychus was one of the few plant-eating theropods, and probably used its claws to rope in vegetation from trees. More about Nothronychus

6. Parasaurolophus

Sergey Krasovskiy

The large, loud, long-crested Parasaurolophus was first discovered in Canada, but subsequent excavations in New Mexico have helped paleontologists identify two additional species of this duck-billed dinosaur (Parasaurolophus tubicen and Parasaurolophus cyrcocristatus). The function of Parasaurolophus' crest?" To honk messages to other members of the herd. More about Parasaurolophus

7. Ceratopsians

Sergey Krasovskiy

In the last few years, the state of New Mexico has yielded the remains of a huge number of ceratopsians (horned, frilled dinosaurs closely related to Triceratops). Among the recent genera discovered in this state are Ojoceratops, Titanoceratops and Zuniceratops; further study should reveal just how closely related these plant-eaters were. More about ceratopsians

8. Pachycephalosaurs

Wikimedia Commons

Pachycephalosaurs ("thick-headed lizards") were bizarre, two-legged, ornithischian dinosaurs possessing thicker-than-usual skulls, which males used to head-butt each other for dominance in the herd. New Mexico was home to at least two important pachycephalosaur genera, Stegoceras and Sphaerotholus (which may turn out to have been a species of yet a third bonehead, Prenocephale). More about pachycephalosaurs

9. Sauropods

Mariana Ruiz

Any state with as many dinosaur fossils as New Mexico is sure to yield the remains of at least a few sauropods (giant, long-necked, elephant-legged plant eaters). Diplodocus and Camarasaurus were first identified elsewhere in the U.S., but the first specimen of the 30-ton Alamosaurus was discovered in New Mexico and named after this state's Ojo Alamo formation. More about sauropods

10. Theropods

Jeffrey Martz

Coelophysis (above) may be New Mexico's most famous theropod, but this state was home to a wide array of meat-eating dinosaurs, some (like Allosaurus) with a long paleontological pedigree, and others (like Tawa and Daemonosaurus) counting as very recent addition to the theropod roster. Like Coelophysis, many of these smallish theropods counted among the first true dinosaurs.

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