FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – California has a state dinosaur? That was probably your first question upon reading the headline. Many know about the grizzly bear, the quail, and the California poppy. But how many Californians know about the Augustynolophus morrisi?
The Augustynolophus morrisi (AW-gus-TEEN-oh-low-fuss), according to Smithsonian, was a duck-billed, 26-foot-long, three-ton herbivorous creature that last roamed the Golden State roughly 66 million years ago during the Maastrichtian Age. This was around the same time as the T-Rex and the triceratops.
Only two specimens of A. morrisi have ever been found, one of them right here in Fresno County in 1939 in the Moreno Formation. The other one was found two years later in San Benito County. Its fossils are the most complete set of dinosaur fossils to be found in California. It was named after paleontologist William J. Morris and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles patron Gretchen Augustyn.
Due to its seeming exclusivity to California, in 2017 Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), introduced a bill to make the A. morrisi California’s state dinosaur. The bill was signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown to officially make the A. morrisi affectionately dubbed “Auggie”, California’s official state dinosaur.
Assemblymember Bloom said having a state dinosaur could be inspiring for children to pursue different branches of science.
“Dinosaurs are cool and highlighting a dinosaur that has such a deep coonection to our state will stimulate interest in paleontology and science overall, particulary with children. 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 Mathamatics.”– Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica)
Dinosaurs in California are a rare find due to the fact that during the period that dinosaurs lived on earth, most of California was covered by the ocean. So the fact that two of these dinosaurs were only found in the state makes it that much more special.