OLYMPIA — Apples, orcas and the sweet onions of Walla Walla are what many consider symbols of Washington.
That may soon change.
Thanks to the discovery of a 17-inch fossil and the desire of a class of Parkland fourth graders, Washington may soon have an official state dinosaur named Suciasaurus rex.
Dino-lovers, try to say that one time fast.
The vehicle to make it happen is House Bill 2155 authored by Democratic Rep. Melanie Morgan of Parkland and co-sponsored by 31 Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
On Wednesday, the bill received a hearing in the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee. It is scheduled to be voted out of committee Friday.
Morgan said in the hearing that she introduced it “on behalf of some civically engaged” fourth-graders at Elmhurst Elementary. Their curiosity and their tenacity led them to her with a request to make it happen, she said.
The story dates back a long, long time — like 80 million years, in a place not so far away, the San Juan Islands.
Dinosaurs romped around on the turf we know today as North America. Then it was the Late Cretaceous period. Earthquakes and other geologic forces that reshaped the planet hadn’t begun to work their mojo, pushing rocks and reshaping terra firma into what is today Sucia Island.
Fast-forward to 2012. As the story goes, two researchers from the Burke Museum at the University of Washington traveled to Sucia Island State Park in search of fossil ammonites, which are sea creatures with spiral-shaped shells that lived at the same time as dinosaurs.
On the shore they came upon what was determined to be a fossilized chunk of a left thigh bone of a theropod dinosaur, the group of two-legged meat eaters whose best known member is Tyrannosaurus rex.
This is the only dinosaur fossil ever discovered in the state.
If S-rex becomes the state dinosaur — for the record there’s no competition for the title — it will become the 22nd state symbol. Apples are the state fruit, orcas the state marine mammal, and the Walla Walla sweet onion is the state vegetable. There’s a state fossil (Columbian Mammoth), waterfall (Palouse Falls) and fish (steelhead trout).
If it happens, Washington would become the 12th state with an official dinosaur. That’s per Wikipedia.
Colorado did it first in 1982, bestowing the honor upon Stegosaurus armatus. Utah and Arizona were the latest in 2018.
Washington, D.C., has one too, Capitalsaurus. Seriously.
Back to Olympia.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Lisa Lantz of Washington State Parks brought a cast of the fossil for everyone to see.
“We would be proud to continue to caretake the fossil,” she said in her brief testimony in favor of the bill.
Logan Endres of the Washington State School Directors’ Association urged passage as well. He, too, cited the educational value for the elementary students who first brought the idea to Morgan.
“Those fourth-graders will never forget how a bill becomes law,” he said.