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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bill that would crown Suciasaurus rex as official state dinosaur passes House

By Elena Perry The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – Some 80 million years ago, what is now known as Washington state was submerged in the Pacific Ocean while dinosaurs marched around the rest of the continent.

Eons of fossilization, earthquakes and tectonic movement later, it’s the year 2012, and paleontologists discover part of what they call a Suciasaurus rex’s thigh bone in the San Juan Islands, the first and only dinosaur fossil discovered in the state.

Following this discovery, a bill to crown the Suciasaurus rex the official dinosaur of Washington passed the state House of Representatives on Monday.

The Legislature began considering the bill for a state dinosaur in 2019, when a fourth -grade class at Elmhurst Elementary School in Parkland near Tacoma hatched the idea. Inspired by students in Massachusetts rallying to make the ladybug their state’s insect, they wrote to their representatives, and Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland, opted to sponsor the bill.

“This is not just a silly bill about a state dinosaur,” Morgan said. “This is a lot deeper. This is really about civic engagement from our kids with their state Legislature.”

The bill has been reappearing each year following that, but supporters are hopeful the 2023 session will be its year. The original class of fourth -graders, who are now in eighth grade, are still following the legislation, reappearing year after year at hearings to express their support. Passing this bill would send a message, students said.

“It would help students all over Washington understand that if you put your mind to it, you can actually do it,” said Athena Tauscher, a student originally in that fourth -grade class.

In 2012, researchers from the Burke Museum in Seattle were scanning the shoreline at Sucia Island State Park for ammonite fossils when they noticed a nearly 17-inch fossil nestled between rocks, protruding from the beach. After a year of carefully excavating the fossil, paleontologists determined it was from a theropod, a group whose ranks include the Tyrannosaurus rex and the velociraptor. Without further identifiers, researchers couldn’t nail down the species, so they decided to nickname the dinosaur the Suciasaurus rex, after the island where they discovered it .

Scientists have said the dinosaur likely died on what today would be California, but tectonic movement shifted the bone to where it was discovered.

The bill appeared on the House floor Monday, Children’s Day, when legislators brought their kids to the chamber to partake in the vote. Among the routine proceedings of the floor session, youngsters ran up and down the aisles and spun wildly in their adults’ chairs.

Legislators didn’t miss the chance to crack numerous dinosaur jokes in their remarks, each one met with an eruption of either laughter or groans from the chamber.

“I had to bone up on my history of dinosaurs a little bit for this bill,” Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said.

When it was time to vote, the typical monotone “Yea” from lawmakers was replaced by the enthusiastic din of eager children, joining their parents in casting votes for the legislation.

The bill passed the House 88-5 with five excused. It’s the third time the bill has won approval in the House. But it still must pass the state Senate, which has never voted on the idea.