What is the State Dinosaur of Maryland?

The fascination with dinosaurs transcends age, culture, and geography. These prehistoric creatures have left an indelible mark on our planet, and their remnants continue to intrigue us. One particular dinosaur has been honored as the official state dinosaur of Maryland. This article delves into the intriguing story of the Astrodon Johnstoni, the Maryland state dinosaur.

The Astrodon Johnstoni: Maryland’s State Dinosaur

In 1998, the Astrodon Johnstoni was officially designated as the Maryland state dinosaur. This dinosaur species holds historical significance for the state, as its fossils were among the first dinosaur remains discovered in North America.

The Astrodon Johnstoni belonged to a group of dinosaurs known as sauropods, characterized by their long necks and tails, and massive bodies. They were herbivorous, feeding primarily on plant matter. The name “Astrodon” means “star tooth,” reflecting the star-shaped cross-section of the teeth found in these dinosaurs.

Discovery of the Astrodon Johnstoni

The first fossil of the Astrodon was discovered in Maryland in the mid-19th century. The specimen, a tooth, was found by a local farmer in Prince George’s County. It was later analyzed by a dentist named Christopher Johnston, after whom the dinosaur is named.

This discovery marked one of the earliest dinosaur finds in the United States, sparking interest in paleontology in the region. Further excavations led to the unearthing of more Astrodon fossils, cementing Maryland’s place in the history of dinosaur discovery.

Dinosaurs in Maryland

While the Astrodon is the most famous dinosaur associated with Maryland, it’s not the only dinosaur found in the state. Maryland’s geological history makes it a rich hunting ground for fossils. Over the years, paleontologists have discovered the remains of several other dinosaur species, including theropods and ankylosaurs.

These discoveries have given us a glimpse into Maryland’s prehistoric past, revealing a time when these magnificent creatures roamed the region. These findings also contribute to our understanding of North America’s ancient ecosystems and the diversity of life that once existed here.

Maryland State Fossil

In addition to the state dinosaur, Maryland also has an official state fossil – the Ecphora gardnerae. This snail-like creature is one of the first fossils described from North America and is a testament to Maryland’s rich paleontological heritage.

Astrodon Johnstoni vs. Other State Dinosaurs

Several states in the United States have adopted state dinosaurs, each with its unique story. For instance, the Virginia state dinosaur is the Dryptosaurus, a carnivorous dinosaur known for its powerful arms and sharp claws. On the other hand, the North Carolina state dinosaur is the Hypsibema crassicauda, a plant-eating dinosaur similar to the Astrodon.

The adoption of state dinosaurs helps promote interest in natural history and paleontology, encouraging the preservation of these important historical resources. It also fosters a sense of state pride and identity, linking the present with the distant past.


The story of the Astrodon Johnstoni, the state dinosaur of Maryland, is a fascinating tale of discovery and scientific exploration. From its initial discovery in the mid-19th century to its designation as the state dinosaur, the Astrodon has become a symbol of Maryland’s rich paleontological history.

As we continue to uncover the secrets of our planet’s past, dinosaurs like the Astrodon remind us of the incredible journey of life on Earth. They inspire curiosity and wonder, spurring us on in our quest to understand the world we live in.


[1] “Maryland State Dinosaur – Astrodon johnstoni”. Maryland Manual On-Line. Maryland State Archives. Retrieved 2023-09-14.

[2] Weishampel, David B.; Barrett, Paul M.; Coria, Rodolfo A.; Le Loeuff, Jean; Xu Xing; Zhao Xijin; Sahni, Ashok; Gomani, Elizabeth M.P.; Noto, Christopher R. (2004). “Dinosaur Distribution”. The Dinosauria (2nd ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24209-2.

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