Official State Fossils Rock!
March 17, 2016 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Ed Yong, science writer for The Atlantic, rounds up the various official state fossils, from Colorado's claim on Stegosaurus to Florida's accidental choice of agatized coral, which is actually the state stone.

Yong's survey is the result of his story from the previous day on the Tully Monster, the state fossil of Illinois. The Monster (formally Tullimonstrum gregarium) turns out to be related to the modern lamprey.
posted by Etrigan (14 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Vermont's Charlotte was, of course, found in Charlotte, Vermont.
posted by maryr at 9:51 AM on March 17, 2016

I got married in front of Nebraska's state fossil!

I'm startled at the number of ichnological state fossils there are. That warms the cockles of my heart.

Also this dude - and I mean that in the greenhorn of senses - does not understand some of the significance of what he seems to be making fun of. . . in some cases. (Dude! Kentucky brachiopods are important for correlating rock units in the Paleozoic; it's a fine choice.)

*laughs and points at Florida*
posted by barchan at 9:52 AM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is relevant to my (son's) interests. Nice round-up!
posted by filthy light thief at 10:08 AM on March 17, 2016

At least your official state fossils are all safely dead. Ours is still gumming up the works in Buckingham Palace.
posted by Devonian at 10:13 AM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

My favorite part is where he drags Georgia for having the state fossil "shark's tooth":
Not the tooth of any particular species or genus of shark, like the monstrous megalodon, as chosen by North Carolina. Nope, just a generic “shark tooth.” That’s like picking “dinosaur leg” as your state fossil, or “bird” as your state animal. It’s even worse because shark jaws are conveyor belts that continually jettison old teeth, and so fossil teeth are extremely common. Georgia is the kid that didn’t really understand the assignment.
posted by babelfish at 10:37 AM on March 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

I was wondering if Hawaii was too young and too volcanic to have any fossils, but there are a few out there.
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:38 AM on March 17, 2016

One of the (many) things that irritate me about science in the U.S. is that there are so many cool things to celebrate. I get why we make state fossils and state birds and such - I do - but there's some really neat things that we could also celebrate that transcend state boundaries but of which a state could also be really proud.

Just as example: In chronostratigraphy, there are what's called official GSSPs: global markers which mark the boundaries between units of time, and "official" localities which represent those boundaries. So for example, the GSSP between the Cretaceous and Paleocene - a really important one! - is in Tunisia.There are a few in the U.S. Most are in Europe.

These are markers which represent events on a global scale. They're really cool! Some places celebrate their GSSPs, like China. The US? Yeah, you're lucky if you get this.

I'm not saying we need to open state parks for every GSSP or anything - I understand priorities, especially in today's climate - but it's such a neat idea that I do wish a little bit cool science stuff like that got more attention. And not many states could claim an official geologic time that represent that time boundary better than anywhere in the world. (For the record: Colorado, Oklahoma, multiples in Texas for the Permian, Nevada, and Utah, with a few candidates elsewhere for stages not defined yet.)
posted by barchan at 10:52 AM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

meinvt: I knew that was going to be a link to the So. Burlington whales.
posted by maryr at 11:05 AM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was wondering if Hawaii was too young and too volcanic to have any fossils, but there are a few out there.

To my great delight I found these gastropods and other mollusks on Maui. (Sorry about the quality of the pics, it was noon, and I wasn't expecting to find them; extremities are for scale.) It was clear they weren't very old - probably the last sea level rise, so less than 100,000 kya, if I were to venture a mediocre guess.
posted by barchan at 11:05 AM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maryland's state fossil isn't a dinosaur. It's Ecphora, which is a snail. Astrodon is the state dinosaur. Poor ignored snail. It has a really pretty shell too.
posted by Akhu at 11:11 AM on March 17, 2016

Huh! Florida got a pass for agatized coral, but no mention of the Michigan situation? They had a perfectly functional and lovely state stone that could have done double duty; the Petoskey stone was designated in 1965 and is a colonial rugose coral fossil. Mastodons are obvs majestic rockstars and totally bitchin', but... I always thought it was a classy choice when states opted for the Paleozoic invertebrates.
posted by Ornate Rocksnail at 11:37 AM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

No Canadian provincial fossils, by the looks of it. Some lovely official tartans, though.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:38 PM on March 17, 2016

While I'm on a surprising local (Vermont) fossil roll, the Burlington School district sports mascot is named for a fossil too.
posted by meinvt at 2:55 PM on March 17, 2016

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