California's official state dinosaur: The Augustynolophus

A rendering of how scientists think the Augustynolophus morrisi dinosaur looked.
A rendering of how scientists think the Augustynolophus morrisi dinosaur looked. Rep. Richard H. Bloom / Twitter

California already has a state flower (the poppy), a state reptile (the desert tortoise) and even a state fossil (the saber-toothed cat). As of this weekend, it also has a state dinosaur.

Meet Augustynolophus morrisi. Like all hadrosaurs, which are duck-billed dinosaurs, he was a vegetarian and was one of the few species of dinosaur to chew his food.

The herbivorous reptile was last seen around California anywhere from 100 to 66 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period.

He's back thanks, in part, to former law student Misha Tsukerman, who in 2016 reached out to paleontologists seeking nominations for the state dinosaur.

Assemblymember Richard H. Bloom of Santa Monica introduced AB 1540, which was co-authored by Anna Caballero of central California and Reggie Jones-Sawyer of South L.A.

Augustynolophus even has his own Twitter feed.

tweet

Augustynolophus was a fairly large dinosaur, standing about 10 feet tall and running 30 feet long from its head to the tip of its tail.

The skull of Augustynolophus morrisi.
The skull of Augustynolophus morrisi. By Albert Prieto-Márquez and Jonathan R. Wagner / Wikimedia Commons

Scientists don't know much more about Augustynolophus. Only two known fossil specimens of the species have been found — and both were discovered in California.

Bones from Augustynolophus morrisi were first discovered in 1939 in the Moreno Formation, located in the Panoche Hills of western Fresno County. The second specimen was found a few years later in nearby San Benito County.

You can see these fossils at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, where they're currently on display in the Dinosaur Hall.

Augustynolophus lived during the late Cretaceous period, which ended when a catastrophic event wiped out dinosaurs, along with most of the planet's animal and plant life. Scientists think an asteroid struck Earth — and Augustynolophus morrisi might have been around to see it.‭ ‬

Pectoral and limb elements from Augustynolophus morrisi.
Pectoral and limb elements from Augustynolophus morrisi. By Albert Prieto-Márquez and Jonathan R. Wagner / Wikimedia Commons

The dinosaur gets its name from Gretchen Augustyn, matriarch of a family that has supported the Los Angeles County Museum, and from paleontologist William Morris.

No word on whether we can expect to see California's state dinosaur in the official state fabric, denim.

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