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Santa Monica Lawmaker Seeks First Official State Dinosaur
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

March 30, 2017 -- The duck-billed Augustynolophus morissi, which roamed pre-historic California some 66 million years ago, could have a future as the first official state dinosaur.

Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) announced Wednesday that a bill he authored to designate the first state dinosaur was approved by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee and would go before the full State Assembly sometime in the next few weeks.

Artist rendering of duck-billed Augustynolophus morissi
Artist rendering of duck-billed Augustynolophus morissi (From Dinopedia.com)

“Dinosaurs are cool,” Bloom said. "Highlighting a dinosaur that has such a deep connection to our state will stimulate interest in paleontology and science overall, particularly with children."

Bloom said an interest in one branch of science can lead a child to pursue other interests in such fields as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, also known as S.T.E.M, programs.

Knowledge of Augustynolophus morissi is limited. It doesn’t have the celebrity chops (so to speak) of "T-rex," the faux but terrifying Tyrannosaurus that loomed over the 1993 blockbuster “Jurassic Park.”

As far as scientists know, the Tyrannosaurus was about 40 feet long and up to 20 feet in height. They are believed to have been fierce predators that scientists say could eat up to 500 pounds of meat in a single bite.

By contrast, California’s state dinosaur was of the plant -- not meat -- eating variety and is singled out as one of the few species of herbivorous dinosaurs that chewed its food.

By one account, Augustynolophus morissi measured at least 35 feet long and almost 12 feet in height. One reconstructed skull measured about 43 inches in size.

Specimens of the dinosaur have been unearthed only in California.

Augustynolophus morrissi dates back to the Maastrichtian Age, also the age of the Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops.

Augustynolophus remains form the most complete dinosaur known from California, and include skull material, making it easier for scientist to show an accurate picture of what the animal actually looked like.

Augustynolophus morrissi is named after Dr. William J. Morris, and Mrs. Gretchen Augustyn. Dr. Morris (1923–2000) was a geologist and paleontologist primarily responsible for most of the dinosaur discoveries along the western coast of North America.

Augustyn is a long-time supporter of 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.

The legislation is sponsored by the Southern California Paleontological Society and supported by the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.

Bloom's 50th District includes Santa Monica and the Westside.


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