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What Is a State Dinosaur?

By B. Chisholm
Updated May 17, 2024
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A state dinosaur is a dinosaur which has been adopted officially as a symbol of that specific state. In some cases, dinosaurs are official state fossils and only some of the US states have official state dinosaurs. Usually they are species of dinosaur of whom footprints or fossils were found in the state.

Dinosaurs, now extinct, were enormous prehistoric creatures which roamed all over the earth. Fossil discoveries help scientists piece together a land's history and the discovery of dinosaur fossils is met with much excitement amongst the scientific fraternity. In most cases, the official state dinosaur for a state is adopted because either fossilized bones or fossilized footprints of that specific dinosaur have been discovered somewhere in the state.

While many states have adopted dinosaurs as their official state fossils, some states have an official state dinosaur. These include Wyoming, with the Triceratops horridus and Maryland, with Astrodon johnstoni. The state dinosaur of Texas, which was named the Pleurocoelus in 1997 was renamed in 2007, when the bones and footprints were re-identified as Paluxysaurus Jonesi.

State emblems and state symbols play an important role in reinforcing patriotism amongst a state's citizens, as does its state motto. As with any chosen state symbol, emblem, or motto, the acknowledgement and adoption of a state's state dinosaur requires an extended administrative process before it becomes official. The adoption in 1991 of the state dinosaur of New Jersey, the Hadrosaurus foulkii came about as a result of three years of lobbying by Joyce Berry, a fourth grade school teacher from Strawbridge Elementary in Haddon Township. She, with a number of her students, and the help of two local Assemblymen went through the whole legislative process. It was with much excitement that they watched governor Jim Florio in June 1991 sign the official papers.

Not all states have a state dinosaur or a state fossil. In some states the state fossil is a dinosaur and in others there is neither a state dinosaur nor fossil. Each US state is known for different resources and attributes and their state symbols are chosen accordingly. In most cases the most recognizable state symbols are the flag, song and motto. Most states will also designate a state animal, bird and flower.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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