Alachua County ranked second best in Florida for fossil hunting

Press release from Excel Pest Services

RIVER EDGE, N.J. – Excel Pest Services have launched this new study (and accompanying interactive tool) to encourage families to get outside and discover an aspect of their local area they may not have known existed. There’s a dinosaur lover in every family, and Florida’s great outdoors is about to bring the paleontologist out of everyone else!

  • Polk ranks as the top fossil hunting place, with the highest number of dig sites and fossil types in Florida; the county also has the fourth oldest average fossil age in the county.
  • Alachua and Levy counties make up the top two, with the counties featuring in the top five positions for all categories.
  • Aside from the top three counties, Jackson and Nassau counties have the two oldest fossils on record. Hamilton and Glades have the two ‘youngest’ average ages of fossils. 

It has been proven that Florida was no hotspot for dinosaurs, due to the fact it was underwater during the time they roamed the world. That doesn’t mean that it has no history in ancient fauna. The peninsula state was home to mammoths and their relatives, mastodons, as well as a range of gigantic turtles that thrived on land and sloths considerably bigger than those on earth today. Many of the fossils in this study include sea-based creatures. 

Dig Sites in Florida

Official dig sites may seem overkill when you could just dig up some of your backyard, but it is important to do it correctly! Helping it secure its first-place ranking in the study, Polk county has the most dig sites in Florida with 21 official sites used for digging; in this state a variety of old insects, shark, ray and fish teeth, and megatherium (giant ground sloth) fossils have been found.

Probably the most interesting finding discovered in Polk is the Nannippus, which was three-toed, resembling a miniature pony with zebra-like stripes. Unusual. 

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Hillsborough ranks in second place for dig sites in the state with 15 official sites ready for you to take your trowel and start digging. If digging in Hillsborough county, keep your eye peeled for fossilized teeth of sharks and other sea-dwellers. Despite trailing Polk county, there are 10 sites more than the state average, cementing Hillsborough’s place as 5th in the study’s overall category. 

Completing the top five for this particular category are Walton, Hendry, and Marion counties, where dig sites trail behind Hillsborough with 13, 12, and 11 respectively. The last of the top five, Marion, with its 11 dig sites, is another place where you can find fossils of ancient horses, with the Hipparion tagged as one of the most commonly found remains. 

Other notable performers in this category include DeSoto, where the county’s seven dig sites have thrown up fossils of the iconic Mastodon – a relative of the mammoth. St. Johns ranks in the top 10 and it’s been known to be home to the Mylodon – another type of land sloth.  

At the opposite end of this particular category are Monroe, Calhoun, and Manatee counties, with just one registered dig site each. 

Fossil Variety in Florida

When it comes to fossil variety, there’s no better place than Polk county (again), which has 71 different types of recorded fossils – the state average is 12, so it is definitely worth the commute! These range from fossilized coral to the giant sloths mentioned above. DeSoto County ranks second for this particular category, with 42 different fossil types registered in the county. In DeSoto, as well as the Mastodon, there are also remains of bison, mammuts, North American camels, and prehistoric alligators

Hendry, Pasco, and Alachua counties make up the top five Floridian counties for the variety of fossils, all with numbers three times the amount of the state average. 

Fossil Ages in Florida’s Counties

Jackson county offers Florida natives the best opportunity to find the oldest fossils, with the average age of discoveries dating back to 22 million years. This, however, is relatively young and only dates back to the Oligocene-Pliocene period. Jackson’s fossils include Metaxytherium remains and a variety of relatives to sirenians. These include Plesiosaur bones, ancient fish, turtles and sponges, and the iconic Dryptosaurus remains. 

This category is the only one stopping Polk county from taking a clean sweep. Polk has the fourth oldest fossils, with the average age dating back to around 14 million years ago.

It is odd to think of 500,000 years as young, but there’s no other way of doing that where fossils are concerned. That is the average age of fossils found in Hamilton and Glades counties, with the fossilized shells of turtles and shark teeth found in the now human-based counties.

Fossil hunting is a great way of getting out of the house, seeing the local area, learning about the local area, and instilling a new passion in the young ones. You could be sitting on a metaphoric pre-historic goldmine in your Florida abode.