What is the State Dinosaur of Delaware?

Although movies and books about dinosaurs have been around for decades, it is in the fairly recent history of dinosaurs that they have been assigned by states and States symbols and one of the most recent of these is Delaware which named a state dinosaur in 2022. We take a look at the State dinosaur for delaware here and a little about what type of dinosaur It was.

There is also a state fossil of delaware ( no jokes about presidents here though!) as well as a state dinosaur, and we will also take a brief look at that. Firstly we will take a look at the Dryptosaurus aquilunguis and give you a few details about this impressive tyrannosaurid

what is the state dinosaur of Delaware

Dryptosaurus Facts: The State Dinosaur of Delaware

We have some quick facts about Delaware’s State dinosaur, the Dryptosaurus below for you and have included a table to make it easier to read as well.

Dryptosaurus Quick Facts

  • Dryptosaurus is named because of its long claws on its hands
  • Dryptosaurus name actually means “Tearing Lizard”
  • it was named by Edward Drinker Cope in 1866 initially, as Laelaps, However this name had already been given to a mite so O.C Marsh renamed it Dryptosaurus in 1877
  • Dryptosaurus was a member of the Tyrannosaur family.
  • It is estimated to grow up to 25 feet long and be up to 8 feet tall.
  • It lived, or its fossils have been dated, to 67 million years ago.
  • Like its larger, Tyrannosaurs cousins, it was a large carnivore dinosaur that would have eaten meat.
  • Dryptosaurus was actually discovered in New Jersey, but close enough!
  • It had longer arms than its cousin the T-Rex and three, rather than two, fingers.
  • Dryptosaurus become the State dinosaur of Delaware in 2022,
  • its name has 4 syllables and you pronounce it like this – Drip – Toe – Saw – Rus

Dinosaur NameState Dinosaur of?lengthHeightWeightWhen LivedWhen and where Discovered
Dryptosaurus Delaware, 202225 feet (7-8 meters) 7 -8 feet (2-2.5 Meters) 3400 lbs (1,500 kg)112 – 93 million years ago1866, in New Jersey

what is the state dinosaur of Delaware

Why is Dryptosaurus the State Dinosaur of Delaware

It is not essential for the fossils of state dinosaurs to be found in the actual state it is common for that to be the case. Dryptosaurus, however, was discovered in New Jersey – close enough!! ( we look at that in more detail below). But it became the State dinosaur for delaware with the help of Shue-Medill Middle school who were asked to research dinosaurs and choose one that they thought would best represent the state of Delaware.

The Dryptosaurus was a quick bird like dinosaur, although large! that was thought to hunt along the coast lines or shore lines of seas and lakes. With Delaware’s state bird being the Delaware Blue Hen they wanted to pick something with similar traits.

The Dryptosaurus speed represents the air force base in Dover – Delaware and with Delaware having a large coastline it was thought that Dryptosaurus would be a good symbol to encourage the protection of those coasts.

The bill was passed in 2022 with universal support and now Delaware has its own state dinosaur, the feisty and fleet footed Dryptosaurus ! Like

Where was Dryptosaurus discovered?

Dryptosaurus was discovered early in the history of fossil discovery and its discovery was an important one as prior to this large carnivorous therapod’s were really only known from their teeth. It was discovered in a Marl pit in New Jersey in 1866.

Dryptosaurus was still incomplete but offered much more of the skeleton to start to research these types of dinosaurs it and paved the way for the classification of the larger therapods like T-Rex.

it was originally named Laelaps by Edward Drinker Cope in 1866, but as this name was already taken by a species of mite, it was later renamed to Dryptosaurus by Copes main rival in fossil hunting, Othniel Marsh in 1877. (This would have been of some annoyance to Cope as they were in the middle of the Bone Wars at that time)

what is the state dinosaur of Delaware

What is the State Fossil of Delaware?

While the Dryptosaurus may be the most recent addition to state symbols for Delaware, its other prehistoric symbol has been around a little longer, both as a symbol and as a fossil.

The state fossil of delaware is the Belemnitella americana and was officially named on July 2nd, 1996. However the fossils themselves are dated from 85 to 66 million years ago. Slightly older than the state dinosaur Dryptosaurus. Belemnitella were squid like prehistoric animals

What is the State fossil of delaware
Belemnitella americana

it was cone shaped and had an internal shell made of chambers just like a modern day squid. just like Delaware’s State dinosaur, Dryptosaurus, it was chosen by a local school – the Martin Luther King Jr elementary school in Wilmington when a student, Kathy Tidball Suggested using the prehistoric mollusc as the state fossil for Delaware.

Belemnites are found in great numbers in Delaware in and around the Chesapeake and Delaware canal and would have come from a shallow sea around 70 million years ago. They are sized at around 6 inches, but in life would have been over double this.

you can check out the other state dinosaurs, those that have adopted one as a state symbol, here in the following list.

You can also read more about State dinosaurs in our US State dinosaur page as well linked here and below.


Like the Arizona and Wyoming State dinosaurs ( which you can read about on the link) Delaware’s State dinosaur the Dryptosaurus, was chosen with the help of local school children and then went through the legislature.

We actually think this is an awesome way to choose state dinosaurs as children have forgotten more than we know about dinosaurs, and state legislators know more about how governments work than we will ever want to know! Working together helps them both learn a little more about each subject.

The Dryptosaurus was a fast agile predator that is thought to have hunted along inland seas and lakes. A great match for the long coasts of Delaware and the fast planes that call Dover Air force base home. ( not to mention the NASCAR track called the Monster Mile as well! )

We also have California’s State dinosaur here on the site, along with its even more famous fossil as well.


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