California, known for its diverse landscape and vibrant culture, also has a rich prehistoric past. One significant part of this history is the state’s official dinosaur, a subject that often sparks curiosity among paleontology enthusiasts and the general public alike. So, what is the California state dinosaur? The answer is Augustynolophus morrisi.
The Augustynolophus morrisi, a duck-billed dinosaur or hadrosaur, roamed the Californian land around 66 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period. It was named in honor of two prominent contributors to paleontology, Gretchen Augustyn and William Morris.
Discovering the Augustynolophus
The discovery of Augustynolophus morrisi has contributed significantly to our understanding of dinosaurs’ life and evolution. In the 1930s and 1940s, two nearly complete skeletons were found in the Moreno Formation in Fresno County, making it one of the few dinosaur species with such well-preserved fossils. These discoveries set the stage for the study of dinosaur fossils in California.
Characteristics of the Augustynolophus
The Augustynolophus was a herbivorous dinosaur, estimated to be about 26 feet long and weighed up to three tons. Its most distinctive feature was its cranial crest, which scientists believe may have been used for communication or courtship. This dinosaur also had a large number of teeth, perfect for grinding plant matter, and strong hind legs that suggest it could walk both bipedally and quadrupedally.
The Augustynolophus: A California Icon
Recognizing the importance of this dinosaur to the state’s history, in 2017, California declared the Augustynolophus morrisi as its official state dinosaur. This designation not only acknowledges the significant dinosaur fossils California has produced but also helps promote interest in the state’s prehistoric past and encourages the preservation of these important scientific resources.
Where Can You See the Augustynolophus?
If you’re wondering where you can see this big dinosaur in California, look no further than the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The museum houses one of the two nearly complete Augustynolophus skeletons ever found, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to come face-to-face with California’s state dinosaur.
Other Dinosaur Fossils Found in California
While the Augustynolophus is the most famous dinosaur associated with California, it’s not the only one. The state has yielded numerous other dinosaur fossils, including those from marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. These discoveries shed light on the diverse range of prehistoric creatures that once inhabited California.
From its discovery in the 1930s to its declaration as the state dinosaur in 2017, the Augustynolophus morrisi has become a symbol of California’s rich paleontological heritage. It serves as a reminder of the incredible biodiversity that once existed and the importance of preserving our natural history for future generations. So, next time someone asks you about the California state dinosaur, you can proudly answer: the Augustynolophus morrisi.
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