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July 02, 2006

Supplemental Sunday Sermonette: State fossils

In honour of July 4th, I thought I'd take a moment to praise those states which have adopted official State fossils.

Unfortunately, as you can see below, only of American states have an official fossil:

create your own states with official fossils map
or check out these Google Hacks.

So, I think we've come up with the perfect wedge issue for 2006 in Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas--ballot initiatives to give these states their own official fossils. If they're going to rally their base with gay marriage, we've got to throw some red meat to the core atheist constituency.

Now, we just need to come up with a shortlist of official fossils. So, in order to do that, I'm holding an 4th of July "Fossils are Winners" Contest.

Write a blog post (or a comment) endorsing fossils for official-fossilless Sates. Explain why your favorite fossil species embodies the State spirit.

I'll announce the winners on July 4th.

Correction:PZ Myers of Pharyngula points out that, contrary to my earlier assertion, Minnesota does not have an official state fossil. There was a bill to make a giant beaver named after Ohio their state fossil, but for some reason the people didn't go for it. PZ suggests an alternative.

Clarification: Some people say that Hawaii is too young to have land fossils, but there's some disagreement on that score. If Hawaii can't have its own fossils, that's no reason not to consider adoption. Nominate a fossil that you think represents the spirit of Hawaii.


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» Minnesota and Texas have something in common from Pharyngula
Lindsay makes a factual error: Minnesota does not have a state fossil. We had a bill introduced almost 20 years ago to make Castoroides ohioensis, a 6-foot long, 250 pound giant beaver, our state fossil…but some people objected to the... [Read More]


Well, a giant sloth fossil was found in North Carolina. It is in the museum in Raleigh. But, the most famous fossil is the Acrocanthosaurus - one that was bought by the museum when the bid for Sue did not work (when Field Museum bid a little more money). You can see people walking around with ACRO shirts on.

The obvious choice for Texas is Quetzalcoatlus, but I would prefer that Dimetrodon get the nod. Let's get some Pelycosaurs on that list!

You know, I was sure we had an official fossil, but it appears our state stone was petrified palmwood and we instead have an official dinosaur (Pleurocoelus). Of course, I don't know shit about that sort of thing and will not be participating in your contest, with extreme prejudice.

Having an official dinosaur without an official fossil is absolutely unacceptable. That's tantamount to saying that there is no such thing as fossilization. I mean, the state flower and the state song were created by God in seven days. By implication, the state dinosaur was as well, but died in the flood. Texas is hedging.

You guys need a ballot iniative to have the state dinosaur declared the official state fossil. That's even more badass that nominating a new fossil because people are emotionally attached to the existing state dinosaur.

I think Texas should have the Trilobite as its official fossil. Though it has been extinct for 250 million years (longer than the last dinosaurs), if a living specimen were miraculously discovered in the Lone Star state I'm sure Tom DeLay and his good ol' boy buddies at Safari Club International would hunt it down and proudly display its stuffed and mounted carcass at their headquarters.

The problem with the trilobite is that three other states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin) already use it. Quetzalcoatlus was not only first unearthed in Big Bend, it is also big and garish - perfect for Texas.

North Carolina: Jesse Helms.

Well, someone had to say it.

A trilobite? That's some weak shit. My home state of California is the sabertooth cat. Current residence of Utah? Allosaurus. That's how it's done.

New York's state fossil was the first animal to crawl out of the sea. And it's related to both the King Crab and the scorpion. Is that a great state fossil, or what?

Chris Clarke:

If it were me I'd say you won the prize for North Carolina.

Sean Foley:

You make a valid point, so I will retract my trilobite recommendation for Texas. I will replace it with the humble fern. It emerged in the Carboniferous period, named for the massive coal beds from that era found in western Europe. Fossil fuels and Texas go hand in hand, correct? Who knows how much ancient fern vegetation is responsible for the current oil deposits in Bush country? Plus I think the irony of having a plant be the official fossil of the home state of big bwana hunters Tom DeLay and Dick Cheney (calling Wyoming his home state is a bunch of crap and everyone knows it) is simply too rich. I hate to toot my own horn, but I think it's a ferntastic idea.

Shit, I'd rather have health insurance for kids, but since that'll never happen unless all of our grotesque suburbs are nuked, I'll go with the fucking fern.

[B]ut since that'll never happen unless all of our grotesque suburbs are nuked, I'll go with the fucking fern.

I had to LOL at that, norbizness. Nice one.

It goes without saying that New York would have the coolest fossil, though Illinois's Tully Monster has to be a close second. As for those states feckless enough not to have an official fossil, I'd suggest the ammonite, 'cause it's a cephalopod, and that should be plenty good for anybody.

But what inquiring minds want to know is the roster of provincial fossils for Canada, specifically my new home of Ontario. If, as too much Googling seems to disclose, only Nova Scotia has a proviincial fossil, it could be just the issue we need to bring Harper down.

If the Canadian provinces get into this game (which is unlikely, since our present government believes that fossils were planted by the Devil, or are the bones of the sons of Cain or some such thing), BC calls dibs on hallucigenia sparsa, since this is where it was discovered.

I'm pretty sure that Hawaii is too young geologically to have fossils. Which would be a good reason to not have an official state fossil.

I'm pretty sure that Hawaii is too young geologically to have fossils. Which would be a good reason to not have an official state fossil.

I'm pretty sure that Hawaii is too young geologically to have fossils. Which would be a good reason to not have an official state fossil.

If North Carolina gets Jesse Helms, then South Carolina would, of course, get Srom Thurmond, orange hair and all.
Kansas, the state that elects Neanderthals to it's school board should get the coprolite:

Strom not Srom Thurmond I meant to write. What kind of name is Strom anyway?
heckblazer - The oldest of Hawaii's main islands, Kauai, is about six million years old, so there are some fossils. The Hawaiian islands had a whole raft of birds that went extinct when people arrived. See "Descriptions of Thirty-Two New Species of Birds from the Hawaiian Islands" Parts 1 & 2 at:

Hawaii: The extinct giant flightless turtle-billed dabbling duck, Moa-nalo. Although a close second might be the lava tree mold. It is one of the few fossils that can kill you and turn you into a fossil.

Texas: I'd have to say the molecular fossil hopane. This molecule, the structurally preserved remnant of certain bacterial membrane molecules, is one of the most common compounds in petroleum. It reminds us of evolution, geologic history, and the hundreds of millions of years it took to create the fossil fuels we will deplete in a couple centuries.

Kansas: I'd have to say the inarticulate brachiopod, Crania. Who knows what the state of Kansas science would be if they were articulate.

Iowa: Without a doubt the northern bog lemming. Common during the last ice age, they are the ancestor of the modern caucus attendee. Well known for their independence and excellent sense of direction.

As soon as Texas names its state fossil, you can be sure every Texan worth her salt will know it, just like
">"> Texas’ own Bud commercial says with the state reptile (The Horny Toad) as an example. How about a contest for a State Bud commercial?

And in agreement with Coturnix, Quetzalcoatlus is perfect, politically correct, a tribute to early Texas (Native American) creationist theory.


I agree with above: oil is the official fossil of Texas.

No fair re: NY fossils. As a young man I worked road crews upstate and cool fossils were just everywhere. I could find crinoid stems linked up like Life Savers. The stone slabs on my front porch had whole crinoids and even rooster tails. Texas is definitely tougher to find really cool fossils, although I have a very nice ammonite and petrified wood.

As for too young Hawaii: the coolest fossil I ever found was a perfect clump of leaves and twigs. My paleo prof said it was a very recent fossil that was an ice age cast, maybe only 10k years old. The La Brea fossils are not particularly old. So Hawaii is in play.

BTW, the lava tree mold is a cylindrical vertical hole in the lava formed when a tree is engulfed and burned out. Charcoal collected from them is primary means of carbon dating older lava flows. They're a significant hiking hazard and yes they can kill you.

My wife pointed out that it sounds like a type of fungus.

Carry on.

The Alaskan state fossil ees Ted Stevens.


Texas has a dinosaur themed state park with lots of sauropod tracks in a riverbed, and some big fiberglass models, like you'd see at a Route 66 roadside attraction. All very scientific, of course.

This is Texas, however, and it would be wrong of me not to mention that Dinosaur Valley State Park is thought by creationists to be the site of fossil evidence that Man walked among the dinosaurs. They have a museum, and everything.

I therefore nominate for Texas' Official State Fossil...

Fred Flintstone

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