Why Are There No Dinosaur Bones in Oregon? Surprising Science
(Portland, Oregon) – You may be wondering why you never hear about dinosaur bones being found in Oregon. No T Rex. No Triceratops. Nothing you would've found in the Jurassic Park flicks or the British series Primeval.
The short answer is: Oregon didn't really exist for dinosaurs to walk on. But there's more to the story than that.
It turns out there were some dino bones found in Oregon, but they're not really from the Oregon area. So you could still technically say these great beasts did not walk around here – and how and why all this is so is a bit full of surprises, twists and turns.
Dr. William Orr is considered one of Oregon's premiere paleontologists, having written numerous books with wife Elizabeth Orr on the subject of fossils. He said some bones have been found in this state, but primarily fossils around here are from primitive sea creatures found around the coast and in the mountains to wooly mammoths and such from Ice Age period where mankind had already appeared.
The land that would become Oregon didn't really exist when the big lizards walked the Earth. It was still part of an ever-evolving ocean floor that would eventually have miles of thick, dense rock covering it.
The kicker: some remains have been found in southern Oregon because geologic processes have moved certain chunks of land into this state.
“The remainder of the Oregon coast and coast range simply lack rocks sufficiently ancient (older than 65 million years ago) to bear dinosaurs,” Orr said.
T Rex and his buddies, along with even more ancient creatures from periods farther back, roamed the Earth 70 million years ago and beyond. Some big life form or another was around from about 300 million years ago onward, likely even earlier.
How this part of the United States came into existence is at the core of this question. It didn't really become a landmass until about 60 million years ago. This made Oregon's lovely lands miss the dinos by a long, long time.
It's also all very complex: a series of rising and falling landmasses (the Cascades and coast range mountains were undersea at several points), major volcanoes and tectonic plates inching along westward were all a factor. Oregon was slowly – very slowly - built up over hundreds of millions of years by one thing or another piling up from what was an ocean floor.
Even so, the area receded back into the ocean and came back up again at least twice.
The tantalizing tidbit is how some dino bones were found, however. Orr said some were discovered on the south coast around Cape Sebastian by Dave Taylor after a long journey from elsewhere.
“The sacrum (pelvic vertebral assembly) of a duck bill (Hadrosaur) was recorded and recovered decades ago by a team from U. Cal. Berkeley,” Orr said. ”Curiously, that creature did not live or die in Oregon. Rocks at that cape dating back over 100 million years are part of a complex geologic package that were shifted northward from a site in the California Great Valley. Furthermore, all the Klamath area coastal rocks from Cape Blanco south have been transported here by a matrix of faults not unlike the present day San Andreas structure.”
Some dino bones were also dug up in southern Oregon, including the remains of large marine reptiles from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, Orr said. This leads him to believe more will be found in the areas around Ashland and Mitchell, as dinosaur cadavers could've washed into shallow seaways.
See more about books from Dr. William Orr and Elizabeth Orr here. More fossil explorations will be featured soon at Oregon Coast Beach Connection, so stay tuned to that site.