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The Weird Stories Behind America's Official State Fossils

Most of states in the US have official state fossils -43, to be exact- but there’s no convention for choosing or identifying a state fossil, so each state does its own thing. Some select a species of fossil found in the state. Some choose a particular specimen, usually with a story behind it. At least one state almost had creationism language added to the fossil proclamation. Some states chose plant fossils. And California had a real competition.

California, in the early 1970s, chose between two candidates, each backed by a rival politician. One argued for trilobites, a highly successful group of woodlouse-like marine animals. The other backed Smilodon fatalis, the saber-toothed cat, a frequent resident of the La Brea tar pits at Los Angeles. Choosing the trilobite would have given California the country’s oldest state fossil. Choosing the cat would have given it a fossil with huge, scary teeth. They chose the cat. (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin all picked trilobites.)

Well, saber-tooth cats are cool. The worst judgment was reserved for Georgia and Kentucky in an article about all the different state fossils at the Atlantic. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Flickr user James St. John)

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