California has an official state tree (California redwood), official fossil (saber-toothed cat), official prehistoric artifact (Chipped Stone Bear), official state flower (golden poppy), official song (“I Love You, California”), even an official state fabric (what else – denim).
Now it has an official state dinosaur, and the creature has roots in western Fresno County.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed Assembly Bill 1540 making the plant-eating, duck-billed Augustynolophus morrisi the official state dinosaur, his office announced late Saturday.
Only two specimens of the dinosaur have ever been found, both in the Panoche Hills west of Interstate 5. Both sets of bones were dug out of layers of rock that once lay at the bottom of the ancient Pacific Ocean.
Over millions of years, those layers were shoved to the surface by tectonic forces and folded into the hills that flank Interstate 5 along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
An analysis of the bill notes that Augustynolophus morrisi has been found no where else in the world. The bill was authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, and supported by about a half-dozen scientific and mineral groups, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History Foundation. The fossil remains of the two specimens are housed at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles.
Paleontologists say the designation of Augustynolophus – it’s pronounced “AW-gus-TEEN-oh-low-fuss” – as the state dinosaur is important because of the rarity of finding land-dwelling dinosaurs in California, much of which was under water during the late Cretaceous period when big dinosaurs last roamed the earth.
Bloom’s office noted that seven other states and the District of Columbia have declared a state dinosaur to pay homage to the early creatures that walked the land. A state dinosaur is an opportunity to recognize California’s history and encourage interest in science among students, Bloom’s office argued.
“A state dinosaur is essential to California’s society because it nurtures an educational opportunity for the youngest Californian’s to become interested in paleontology, and S.T.E.M (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as a whole.”