Exploring the Mysterious Dinosaurs of North America’s Lost Continent
The secrets beneath North America are pretty fascinating. Many believed it to have split into two for 27 million years in the Cretaceous. To the east, the forgotten continent of Appalachia.
To the west, Laramidia, an old continent. Between them became a shallow sea ridden with dangerous creatures such as crocodiles, sharks, and mosasaurs.
Even now, the relics of Laramidia are present in rock layers stretching from the cactus-rich landscapes of the Mexican desert to the oil fields of western Alaska.
The last known evidence of Appalachia was beneath a region from the cypress swamps of the Mississippi River to the tundra around the Hudson bay in Manitoba, Canada.
Hidden within North America is an ancient continent once inhabited by dinosaurs – but it's been almost entirely forgotten. https://t.co/zKtNzSheSq
— BBC Future (@BBC_Future) February 3, 2023
Laramidia has since produced most of the dinosaurs known to us for over a century. There are at least 32 near-complete skeletons of T-Rexes, herds of Triceratops, and bones from around 80 stegosauruses.
Also present is the Alamosaurus weighing as much as a small commercial airliner. America’s natural history museums have populations of almost exclusively dinosaurs from this western continent.
A farmer in 1830 would discover of a lifetime when he uncovered assorted giant bones resembling vertebrae. This happened while digging for mineral-rich marl in this small pit, and he wouldn’t know the worth till he was an older man.
This golden age of eastern dinosaurs sadly did not last long. By the late 1870s, there was so much interest in the promising new cluster of fossils that researchers discovered in Wyoming and Colorado.
Current Dinasour Record
In the year 1997, there were fewer than 10 known species of eastern dinosaurs, including the bones from Hadrosaur, Cope’s Dryptosaurus.
The current fossil record still conjures a scene dominated by giant 35ft-long (10.6 m) hadrosaurs and ferocious relatives of T-Rex.
It would then seem Dryptosaurus didn’t have a monopoly on terror. It shared its territory with Appalachiosaurus, a similar bipedal predator of unknown size.
These dinosaurs would have shared a rainforest home with Ornithomimosaurs. They are dinosaurs with feathers resembling an ostrich that may have been mostly vegetarian.
In 2022, Lindsay Zanno discovered the size of bones. Lindsay, a paleontologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Her colleagues noticed that those in Appalachia had big bones and that “a 13-14-year-old individual is represented by a single bone, was more than three times heavier than a modern ostrich.”
Today the Dryptosaurus remains are tucked away in a drawer at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Pennsylvania, as paleontologists work to study, uncover more fossils, and preserve their remains.
Fossil Records of Dinosaurs
“Right now, there are only 3 specimens that represent individuals for which there are multiple bones,” says Chase D. Brownstein, an undergraduate student and research associate at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center.
He says, “So you can see it’s like two discoveries in the last 2 decades, after over a hundred years of silence.” The discoveries include a Cope’s Dryptosaurus and two Tyrannosaurs. One was identified in 2005, and Brownstein described the other in 2021.
Though it wouldn’t seem so, like Laramidia, Appalachia was teeming with these magnificent beasts. Although they’re virtually absent from public displays.
In the 169 years or more people have searched, Appalachia has yielded little more than a few dinosaur specimens and a handful of teeth and bones.
The continent’s prehistoric wildlife had almost disappeared from any fossil records. Until recently, these fascinating creatures and the lands they inhabited would seem like they never existed. Moreover, paleontologists hardly discussed them.