SACRAMENTO – Joining an esteemed list of other symbols such as the state flower, state animal, and state bird, the California State Legislature has taken the first step towards adding a dinosaur to that list. The legislation, AB 1540, by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) would designate Augustynolophus morissi, a duck-billed dinosaur that roamed California 66 million years ago, as the official state dinosaur.
“Dinosaurs are cool and highlighting a dinosaur that has such a deep connection to our state will stimulate interest in paleontology and science overall, particularly with children,” said Bloom. “Having an interest in one branch of science often leads a child to be interested in other areas of science so this bill aligns with the investment we have made in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, also known as S.T.E.M, programs.”
Augustynolophus morrisi belongs to a family of dinosaurs, Hadrosauridae or the "Duckbill Dinosaurs” and has only been found in California. The fossils were unearthed in the Moreno Formation of Fresno County which means that Augustynolophus comes from near the "geographical center" of our state. The first specimen was found in 1939.
Augustynolophus morrisi roamed California during the Maastrichtian Age, which makes it a contemporary of other well-known dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. Augustynolophus is the most complete dinosaur known from California, and includes skull material, making it easier for scientist to show an accurate picture of what the animal actually looked like.
The species is named after two notable Californians, Dr. William J. Morris, and Mrs. Gretchen Augustyn.
Dr. Morris (1923–2000) was a geologist and paleontologist was primarily responsible for most of the dinosaur discoveries along the western coast of North America. Mrs. Augustyn has been a long-time supporter of the scientific and educational programs at the Natural History Museum and a former Trustee for the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology and the Webb Schools in Claremont, California.
“With science disbelievers occupying key positions in our federal government, it is more important than ever to remind our children of the important role scientific discovery has had on our way of life and encourage them to continue to learn, discover, and innovate,” added Bloom.
California started designating state symbols in 1903 when the Golden Poppy was designated as the state flower. Since then, the Legislature has designated 33 other state symbols.
The legislation, sponsored by the Southern California Paleontological Society and supported by the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, passed the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee and will now go before the full State Assembly for a vote sometime in the next few weeks.
Richard Bloom represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.