Archive for Friday, January 28, 2011

It’s reptile vs. fish in fight to be Kansas fossil

January 28, 2011


— About 80 million years ago, the Pteranodon longiceps flying reptile would not have been powerful enough to swoop down and successfully nab the big Xiphactinus audax fish.

In a bid to be designated the official state fossil, though, don't count the pteranodon out yet.

On Monday, state Reps. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, and Don Hineman, R-Dighton, introduced a bill to declare the fossil of the Xiphactinus audax the official fossil of the state of Kansas. The bill's genesis came from Sloan's constituents.

On Wednesday, Sloan said, he started hearing views that the more fitting state fossil was the pteranodon.

Hineman's heard those arguments, too, and he indicated Thursday there could be a change.

Most states have official state fossils. Alaska has the woolly mammoth; Montana, the duck-billed dinosaur; Massachusetts, dinosaur tracks.

The Xiphactinus audax (ZI-fac-tin-us AH-dacts) is well-known to paleontologists. At Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, the most famous fossil is the fish-within-a-fish. The larger fish is a Xiphactinus audax.

The big fish would have been found here as long ago as 100 million years, said Mike Everhart, who has authored "Oceans of Kansas" and is an adjunct curator of paleontology at Sternberg Museum. The fish fossils have been discovered over a wide area - from Alabama to Wyoming - and that could be its weakness as far as becoming Kansas' state fossil.

The Pteranodon longiceps (terr-RAN-oh-don LON-gi-ceps) is a flying reptile found in this area about 87 million years ago. Limited and poor-quality specimens of the pteranodon have been found in Wyoming and South Dakota, but the pteranodon is almost exclusive to Kansas, according to Everhart.

Sternberg Museum Director Reese Barrick pronounced the Xiphactius audax "a very cool fish." But Sternberg Museum also has specimens of the pteranodon, and the flying reptile is incorporated in the museum's logo.

"Either one of them would be fantastic," Barrick said and "perfectly appropriate."

Personally, though, Barrick and Everhart favor the pteranodon as the official state fossil. They noted that it is more recognizable and more exclusive to Kansas.

Everhart pointed out that the flying reptile would be "nearly instantly recognized" by children and adults - particularly those who saw "Jurassic Park" and the IMAX movie "Sea Monsters."

"We're kind of in limbo right now. We may change the species of the fossil before we finish with that bill," said Hineman, who has hunted and found fossil specimens in western Kansas.

Sloan isn't keen on throwing the fish back in the sea.

"Frankly, what is going to happen is that people will suggest other fossils, confusion will reign among the legislators and nothing will happen," Sloan said.


Stuart Evans 7 years, 4 months ago

doesn't the governor have something to say about the time line of fossils? How could he allow this waste of time to continue, knowing that the earth and all it's fossil records are no more than 10,000 years old...

somebodynew 7 years, 4 months ago

I think the official fossil ought to be the entire Legislature (at least until it is time to go into extra session and earn that extra money). Nothing seems to get done over there during session - but we have time for arguments like this!!!!!

KSManimal 7 years, 4 months ago

Just wait....after much thoughtful debate, a fossil will be selected; then Brownback will veto the bill. After all, Brownback needs to protect us from the evils of evil; and he knows that Satan planted all those fossils to mislead the weak mortal humans into thinking evil evolutionary thoughts. Sam knows the real story: those big fish drowned in the big flood. They are only a few thousand years old.

ralphralph 7 years, 4 months ago

Uh, excuse me, State Reps?

We're bleeping bankrupt. Please quit screwing around with nonsense like this and get to work.

Do these guys really not understand that we don't want to pay our tax money for them to sit around in the newly re-gilded palace and waste time and energy on this crap?

Get to work or go home.
On second thought, just go home.

Jimo 7 years, 4 months ago

Why don't we just take taxpayer money and lend it to a dinosaurs-on-the-ark themepark? At least that would have a chance of creating a job or two. And it would provide the perfect forum for Board of Education candidate debates!

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