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Sea monster invades Statehouse
School children visiting the Statehouse on Thursday quickly gravitated toward the building's newest addition — a 17-foot juvenile mosasaur hanging on the wall in Gov. Sam Brownback's ceremonial office.
"It's kind of like lightning in a bottle, the way I see it," said Alan Detrich, of Lawrence, a fossil hunter who discovered the dinosaur several years ago in Gove County in western Kansas.
"Once you get a kid interested in dinosaurs or fossils, they want to read about it, and on the way to becoming a paleontologist they might accidentally end up being a doctor, or a governor, or a state representative," Detrich said.
Detrich has loaned the mosasaur to the state for an indefinite period of time.
The mosasaur arrived as the Kansas House gave final approval to make the tylosaurus, a type of mosasaur, as the state marine fossil, and pteranodon as the official state flying fossil.
The designation started with petitions from school children in Lecompton Elementary; Liberty Memorial Central Middle School and New York school, both of Lawrence; and Santa Fe Trails Middle School in Olathe.
Amanda Martin-Hamon, the daughter of the late Larry Martin, who had been Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Kansas University Natural History Museum, said her father would have been proud of the designation because it will be used as an educational tool. "He felt like paleontology was a really great way to do that because kids love fossils, they love dinosaurs. It sparks their imagination to think that sea monsters were real," she said.
Martin-Hamon's daughter Teagan, a third-grader at Lecompton school, helped spur the petition effort of having a state fossil.
The mosasaur, coiled up in its "death pose" on display, was a swimming reptile predator common to Kansas when it was under an inland sea millions of years ago.