Speed Reads

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10-year-old dinosaur enthusiast inspires Utah to name a state dinosaur

Congress might be able to learn a thing or two from the Utah State Legislature, where a conflict over replacing the official state fossil resulted in a creative, Cretaceous solution.

Republican state Sen. Curt Bramble appeared ready to declare war on the Allosaurus — the official Utah state fossil — last December, proposing it should be replaced by the Utahraptor. The issue first came to Bramble's attention thanks to a 10-year-old family friend and dinosaur enthusiast, Kenyon Roberts, who likewise argued the Utahrapor's case to The Salt Lake Tribune: "Its name has 'Utah' in it, and it's only found in Utah. The Allosaurus has been found in Europe, Africa, and other states. The first Allosaurus skull was found in Colorado."

Convinced, Bramble decided to write legislation to dethrone the Allosaurus. But "there are historical reasons for keeping the Allosaurus," argued Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland, who actually discovered the Utahraptor himself around 1990 near Arches National Park. For example, Utah's Cleveland-Lloyd quarry provided researchers with 50 Allosaurus specimens, allowing paleontologists to make great strides towards understanding the Jurassic lizard.

In order to avoid conflict, Bramble went back to the drawing board and came up with a different bill — to introduce a state dinosaur, The Associated Press reports. And no, it's not the state's 83-year-old senator, Orrin Hatch. It's — yes — the mighty Utahraptor.

Utah does not have a state dinosaur at present, so the new bill avoids any potential fights in the Legislature. Other states with official dinosaurs are Wyoming (Triceratops), Iowa (Tyrannosaurus), and New Jersey (Hadrosaurus foulkii).