Dino Fossils found in Orange County!

With the recent release of the latest Jurassic World movie and our own upcoming “From Dinos to People” event this Sunday July 10th, it’s safe to say dinosaurs are on a lot of people’s minds! We wanted to take a closer look at the only dinosaur to ever have their fossils found right here in Orange County, the Hadrosaur.

You might recognize the “duck billed dinosaur” from the lovable character Ducky in the animated movie The Land Before Time but there are two subfamilies: Saurolophinae and Lambeosaurinae. Saurolophines mostly featured no crests, though some had bumps on their noses or small points. Lambeosaurines had large crests. All could walk on either two legs or four, though they were most likely comfortable on four.

During the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods, 66 to 200 million years ago, the area that is now Orange County was under the waters of a tropical ocean. The dinosaur bones preserved here represent animals that died on the coast and were washed out to sea. Because of this, local information on dinosaurs is difficult to obtain. Cal State Fullerton and OC Parks teamed up to try and compile a better archeological record and together they created The Cooper Center in Santa Ana. This was the largest collection of archeological findings and paleontology in Orange County and remained closed to the public under university direction until OC Parks took over and expanded the outreach program.


Now, we are lucky enough to partner with OC Parks and The Cooper Center on our events such as “From Dinos to People” to have items like whale bones, fossils, archaeology digs for students, activities and more brought out for the public to enjoy.

The Hadrosaur, or “bulky lizard” is a catch-all term for any duck-billed dinosaur. They’re often called the cows of the Cretaceous because they’re big, common herbivores that were all over. They remain rare to find in Orange County mostly because they were believed to have lived more inland and were washed down river as they died, scattering their bones and washing many out to sea. The collection and discovery of many of the specimens studied today was helped in 1977 after legislation was passed in Orange County requiring that material be saved from the construction sites in the county. The Cooper Center was a main collector of much of the debris which they used to collect and archive data and fossils found and stored in their 20,000 square foot “Indiana Jones Warehouse” named after the imposing and very full warehouse in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The rocks of Orange County span back as far as 180 million years so there is a huge undertaking to process all the construction and research debris for important archeological finds. The county rocks primarily produce invertebrates — animals like ammonites and clams, and sharks. The existence of dinosaurs ended after a world altering asteroid wiped out most living plants and animals on earth. Mammals moved forward into the spotlight and all we have left of the dinosaurs can now only be found in our museums, universities, and cultural center. Join HMOC’s “From Dinosaurs to People” event this Sunday July 10th from 11am to 3pm, with vendors and exhibitors from all over Orange County where you can see the remnants of dinosaurs AND real, live, breathing descendants of these creatures from long ago plus much more!