May 8, 2009
A few months ago my colleague Mark Strauss mentioned the controversy surrounding the state dinosaur of Texas. Previously the state’s patron dinosaur was the sauropod Pleurocoelus, but this has turned out to be a mistake. Pleurocoelus was initially named for bones found in Maryland and the same name was applied to fossils from Texas. As it turns out, however, the Texas bones are distinct enough to merit a different genus name, Paluxysaurus.
The change should have been relatively simple. Texas was not really getting a new dinosaur; the name of the fossils were just being changed. Things got complicated, however, when ten-year-old Shashwatch Murphy petitioned to have the state dinosaur changed to Technosaurus. It was a valiant effort, but unfortunately for Murphy, Technosaurus was actually not a dinosaur at all and could not be considered for the honor of state dinosaur.
Paluxysaurus looked like a shoe-in for the “new” state dinosaur, but the Texas representatives decided to use the opportunity to engage in a little legislative theater. Some of the primary supporters of the resolution, like representatives Mike Hamilton and Mark Homer, put on dinosaur suits to show their support for the name change (even if Hamilton mixed up the words “extinct” and “instinct”). Some of the other representatives gave them a hard time, though. Representative Dan Gattis made known his opposition to the bill as “In accordance with the international fourth-grade spelling bee and grammar rules … the author [of the bill] cannot even spell or pronounce all the words in his resolution.”
If Gattis opposed the bill, he was the only one. The measure passed by a vote of 132 to 1 (even though it still has to pass through the state senate). Unless there are any more shenanigans to be played out, it looks like Paluxysaurus is the new state dinosaur of Texas.
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