Dinosaurs roamed New Mexico during the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras, leaving behind a fossil record that tells the story of more than 500 million years. Although there were many dinosaurs that once roamed the state, several stand out as exceptional specimens.
A great place to learn more about dinosaurs in New Mexico is at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
The largest dinosaur in North America was discovered in New Mexico in 2004. The Alamosaurus lived in the New Mexico region about 69 million years ago. This large dinosaur was about the size of the Titanosaur sauropods from South America, that weighed up to 100 metric tons and could be as long as 60 feet from head to tail.
The bones discovered were of the giant's neck vertebrae, which were larger than any of the alamosurus bones found elsewhere in North America. Scientists have speculated on whether the large dinosaur emigrated from South America, though they don't yet know why they would have done so.
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in the San Juan Basin south of Farmington looks like a desert from a science fiction movie, but it's real. It's the eerie setting for the discovery of an Ankylosaur, a dinosaur that looked something like an armored alligator. The dinosaur was discovered in 2011 by paleontologist Robert Sullivan. His discovery of the skull and neck of the dinosaur turned out to be a rare find.
Although Ankylosaurs roamed the earth 73 million years ago during the Cretaceous period, this dinosaur was a new species, called Ziapelta. The fossil was very well preserved and missing very little of the skull.
Coelophysis was a tiny dinosaur that roamed New Mexico about 220 million years ago. It was discovered in 1947 at the Ghost Ranch. The quarry at Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu has provided thousands of fossils of this small theropod dinosaur.
Coelophysis was small for a dinosaur, measuring up to almost 10 feet in length, and about 33 to 44 pounds in weight. Like the T. Rex, this dinosaur was bipedal and carnivorous. In addition, it was a fast and agile runner. This Triassic period dinosaur is the official state fossil of New Mexico.
Parasaurolophus was a crested dinosaur with a duckbill. The crested bone on the rear of its head produced a haunting sound that scientists think was used for communication and for thermoregulation. It was also probably used as a visual display for identifying species and sex. Parasaurolophus was a bipedal herbivore who lived in swampy lowlands.
Although it was first discovered in Alberta, Canada, the discoveries made in New Mexico in 1995 helped scientists identify two additional species of this unusual dinosaur.
The first baby Pentaceratops skull ever discovered was found in New Mexico. The 70 million-year-old fossil was found in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in 2011 and was encased in plaster and brought back to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. The remains of the baby dinosaur may have been washed in a streambed, as some of its bones have fallen apart.
The Pentaceratops was an herbivore and one of the largest horned dinosaurs that ever lived. They could be as long as 27 feet and could weigh more than five tons. The discovery of the young dinosaur provided scientists with a look at the early stages of life for the Pentaceratops.
In 1997, a volunteer for the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science found a fossil site while exploring the Bisti/De-Na- Zin Wilderness area of northwestern New Mexico. The fossil was the partial skeleton of a Tyrannosaur, who was a member of the meat-eating dinosaurs that includes the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex. After research and analysis, it was discovered that the dinosaur was a new genus and species that helped to clarify the evolutionary history of the Tyrannosaurs.
The new Tyrannosaur was named Bistahieversor sealeyi, which combines Greek and Navajo words to mean "Sealey's Destroyer of the Badlands." The dinosaur lived about 74 million years ago, and like most Tyrannosaurs, lived a short and violent life.