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Bill seeks to designate official Arkansas dinosaur

January 30 , 2017:

by Emma Pettit

Some Arkansas lawmakers want a different sort of animal to join the ranks of the mockingbird and the white-tailed deer in officially representing the state: a dinosaur.

Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, filed a bill designating the Arkansaurus fridayi the official state dinosaur, chosen because it is “unique” to Arkansas, “brings recognition to the state” and “promotes an interest [in] paleontology,” the document says.

The initiative is primarily sponsored by Leding as well as Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville in the Senate, and it's co-sponsored by seven additional lawmakers. If it passes, Arkansas will join nine other states that name an official dinosaur.

The bygone creature’s name is a mashup of the state it was discovered in and the man who made that discovery. Remains of a right foot of the Arkansaurus fridayi were uncovered in a gravel pit near Lockesburg in August of 1972 by Joe B. Friday and then studied by Dr. James Harrison Quinn at the University of Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Geological Survey. They are the only dinosaur bones that have been unearthed in the state, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported.

[QUIZ: How well do you know the state's official symbols? Find out here]

The bill was born from the brain of a then-Fayetteville High School student, Mason "Cypress" Oury, who launched a website in 2015 and petitioned legislators to give the Arkansaurus fridayi the recognition he thinks it deserves.

"My goal is to get the state of Arkansas a state dinosaur," Oury told the newspaper in 2015. "I feel that having a state dinosaur for Arkansas would be just about the coolest thing ever."

As for what the ancient animal looked like, experts can only make assumptions based on other, better-known dinosaurs with similar foot-structures. The state Geological Survey describes Arkansaurus fridayi in a brochure as “ostrich-like” with a “horny beak,” bulging eyes and an opposable digit on each hand. His slender neck extends him to a full height of 15 feet, and he feasts on insects, larvae, fruits, plants and eggs.

A near-full scale model of the dinosaur was once displayed at the Arkansas Geological Commission Learning Center in Little Rock, standing upright and peering over a crowd with vibrant green irises, the paper reported. The detail, and others, were a best guess as to what the Arkansaurus fridayi might have looked like while scavenging for a meal or listening for predators.

To let Arkansaurus fridayi join the “small community of State Dinosaurs in the United States” would provide both “public and educational benefits,” the bill says. The text was read aloud on Tuesday and referred to the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth and Legislative and Military Affairs.



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