Big “X-Fish” fossil on display at Kansas Union

A Lawrence resident is hoping a very big, very old fish gets some official recognition from the Statehouse soon.

As part of the effort to have the Kansas Legislature approve the xiphactinus as its state fossil, Alan Detrich has offered to donate a 3-by-3-foot skull to the Capitol if the measure passes.

The skull will be on display from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today on the fourth floor of the Kansas Union, Detrich said. Graduate students will give away free shark’s teeth at the event.

Anyone interested in signing a petition to make the fish the state fossil may do so at the event.

Many xiphactinus specimens can be found throughout the state, including the fish-within-a-fish fossil at the Sternberg Museum in Hays. They’re only indigenous to Kansas and New York, Detrich said, and can grow up to 18 feet long.

“It’s got two-and-a-half-inch teeth,” he said. “It’s pretty ferocious-looking.”

Detrich has been working for more than a decade to get Kansas to approve an official state fossil.

He said he had high hopes that the measure would come before the state’s legislative body this year.

If the state were to approve the measure, Detrich said, it would become the 41st state to designate an official state fossil.